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Things Gretel Knows by Lissa Sloan

Gretel knows about stones

Stones may lead you safe home

But they cannot make home safe

You cannot squeeze blood from stones

They have nothing to give


I know about nothing 


Gretel knows about crumbs

Crumbs will not lead you home at all

Not if the birds get them first 

Even kept in your pocket and nibbled slowly

Crumbs are not enough 


I know about not enough 


And when you do not have enough

When you do not even have any

When you are afraid in the wood

You will not recognize the difference between


and too much

It is all the same to you

It was all the same to me

Gretel knows about hunger

About being so hollow you will take any scraps you can get

Even if they are rotten

Even if they are poison

Because you cannot say no

If you want to live


I wanted to live 


I did not know the difference between 

Some and too much

Any or a surfeit


It was all the same to me


Gretel knows about gingerbread

You can make gingerbread into a house

But it will never be a home

It may give you a full belly, sticky lips and fingers

Until you are stuffed and trapped and sick

Until it is too much


I did not know how to tell

When I had had too much


Safety or danger?

I could not tell the difference


Between dying and


the things I did

to save my life


Between a fire for warmth 

and a fire for baking

and a fire for


the thing I did


Gretel knows about turnips 

Like stones, you cannot get blood from them

But unlike stones, you can eat turnips 

Boiled in a soup, roasted with oil and pepper, even raw


I know the difference now


I line my garden beds with stones 

And eat the turnips that grow between them

When I have breadcrumbs I sprinkle them for the birds

I do not need to save them up


I know where to find wild strawberries in the wood

When they are ripe I eat them with cream

When they are rotten I leave them alone

I can tell the difference now 


I tend my garden

Greens, potatoes, carrots, peas

Mint, garlic, rosemary, sage

I tend my chickens, cow, and bees

They give me

Eggs, milk, and honey


I know what I'm hungry for

And eat what I like


Potatoes fried with onions and butter

Wild greens and herbs and mushrooms 

Thick brown toast with blackberry jam


But never gingerbread 


There are some things I have had enough of

Enough to last a lifetime

Lissa Sloan is the author of Glass and Feathers, a dark continuation of the traditional Cinderella tale. Her fairy tale poems and short stories appear in The Fairy Tale Magazine, Niteblade Magazine, Corvid Queen, and anthologies from World Weaver Press. She is also a contributing writer at FTM.Visit Lissa online at, or on social media. 

Image by Arthur Rackham: “The Lady Enters the Forest.”



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