sigrid nunez writes

“some things it would be death to forgive”


hansel and gretel’s witch

— evil, as expected —

but how to blame her,

when famine has swept the land,

divided heart and head,

body and soul,


has not their own father

left them to die?

(the authors, men of course,

will blame the step-mother.)


one of many differences

between witch and hero:

the hero forgives


but witches want too much.

(perhaps this

is what makes them witches)

would a witch leave her child

for any man?

witches lock little girls in towers,

just to keep them.

they will not part

with a single bean.


riding home with my father,

ten years old, tactless,

delicately soled. I have

upset him—not difficult

to do. (seratonin is not

a playground word.)

“they run over dogs

all the time in burma,”

he tells me, and I know

he has said it only

to hurt me.


if my father left me

in the woods

I would not come back.


many years would pass.

until he found me

on his third honeymoon,

innkeep, at a candied house,

(rebranded, of course —

no hint of uncanny cannibals,

in The Lemondrop Inn.)


perhaps he apologizes perhaps he

smiles the smile he saves for strangers,

asks my name.

(teeth, the most misleading

of bones,

elusive, illusive,

not white stones but breadcrumbs,

not swan but snow-white bird.)


supercilious, collected,

I give him his roomkey

and change.