© Ava Leavell Haymon.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
Trying once again to produce
a butter cream — cool room, cool
crockery, wooden spatula, wooden spoon —
the girl forgot about the witch and imagined
the taste in the boy’s mouth.
Under her hands she felt the sugar
relinquish its crystal grit
without dissolving, and the butter,
without melting, relax its waxy
resistance. Butter and sugar
disappeared, and there it was
at last — the smooth paste, neither solid
nor liquid, somewhere in between.
Keep your fingers out! and a hard slap,
like the stepmother’s.
Gretel’s flaring cheek asked a new question:
What if I try hard enough? Learn everything?
Without taking a single taste, produce the cake
that makes the boy smile and grow fat?
Then she roasts Hansel in the fire
and dances all night in her dark garden.
I’ll be the only child here and no use to her
alive. The spoon was lifting
butter cream, perfect and undeniable.
Gretel’s grip loosened, and the spoon swung
sideways, like the needle of a compass.
There is something more, she thought:
something the witch will never teach me.
A riddle of kitchens, so plain
I can’t see it, the answer physical
as gristle in the riddle itself.
Her wrist dropped,
spoon plopped into bowl.
Perfect appretice, heroine girl,
the complete cook must learn to kill.
Text prepared by:
- Bruce R. Magee
Haymon, Ava Leavell. Why the House is Made of Gingerbread. Baton Rouge: LSU Pr., 2010. © Ava Leavell Haymon. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NOTE: This poem is from Why the House is Made of Gingerbread: Poems (2010), a poetic retelling of the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.