Jan 142010

I knew my elder sister would return
to sweep the ashes. She would part
sugar from sand, she would fill my mouth
with honey. She would bring shoes,
red ones with buckles. She would raise me.
I would be buried under the juniper tree,
I would be cooked in the stew,
I would be eating poisoned apples
and traded away for spinach,
I would be weaving nettle shirts
for my brothers till my fingers bled.
My throat would be slit to spite my father.
I would be waiting for deliverance.

She never showed. I was on my own.
Gathering my scraps, I set off. I stole
seven-league boots, I moved fast.
I threw ribbons behind me to make rivers,
I tossed combs over my head to grow trees,
I couldn’t be caught. I gave my bread to beggars,
an old woman, and a golden bird who said it knew
my family. A sweet-tounged fox showed me a house
made of gingerbread, where finally I slept.
Safe at last. The black forest hides me
and I’m inviolate. Alone. And above the trees
surely that flock of birds does not follow
a careless path of crumbs, and surely no refugees
from a bad mother can find me, to nibble
at my foundation till I crack.


BIO: Anne Brannen lives in Pittsburgh, where, for her day job, she studies medieval drama.

IMAGE: Fairy Land, Edward Reginald Frampton, 1872-1923

 Posted by at 2:59 pm

  7 Responses to “Bad Mothers by Anne Brannen”

  1. Always a fan of the story in which the girl or woman rescues herself with intelligence and courage rather than being paralyzed by fear, waiting for supernatural aid.. or sitting on her duff waiting for The Guy.

  2. Enjoyed this – especially the transformations of her hair accessories, and the closing line.

  3. Yes! Yes! Thank you so much for this! Every word feeds my soul!

  4. Beautiful!

  5. beautiful. Thanks the Gods you are writing poetry!!!!!!! Yumm.

  6. This was gorgeous! Here’s my favorite bit:

    “Gathering my scraps, I set off. I stole
    seven-league boots, I moved fast.”

    Shiver me timbers. Obviously I should read more Cabinet-des-Fees.

  7. I love this poem. What mostly amazes me is that these things always happen to girls, seldom to boys. Nonetheless, we prevail. Wow. Thank you.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.