Gretel Grown Old Talks about Life in Exile
by Jeanne Wagner

Mornings I listen to the thonk, thonk,
of the woodcutter’s axe,

his labor a depletion of my world.
Yes, he’s brawny—

he can slice a wedge of hickory trunk
as if it were a wheel of cheese,

all the while the tree keeps straining
to keep itself erect.

I watch him clear-cut the limbs, light
flooding the ground like shame.

Later he’ll show me knots in the rings,
cankers deep in the heartwood.

It takes so little to sustain our lives: a hare
or fowl for the pot, a kitchen garden,

yet each day the woodcutter comes by
forcing the trees to recant.

The truth is, there was no witch, no oven,
just the end of our step-mother’s broom.

The truth is, we were never lost, Hansel
and I, we followed the trees,

their language of lichen and shadow,
the flight of expatriate birds.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 4.

Jeanne WagnerJeanne Wagner is the winner of several national awards, including the 2014 Hayden’s Ferry 500/500 Prize and the 2014 Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Award. The author of five collections, her most recent book is In the Body of Our Lives, which was released by Sixteen Rivers press in 2011.

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