Little Ginger Bread Man
by Jamie Wasserman
Your father travels all the way
from Boston just to see you
on your birthday. Your mother
tells you, “Be grateful.”
The old man pounded the dough, touched
his fingers around the edges.
The old woman kept watch
at the oven, sniffing the gas,
rubbing her empty stomach.
He brings tightly wrapped
presents and a silver dollar that he slips
into your hand like a golden key.
He winks at you, musses your hair,
says “We’ll play later.”
Before he was your dessert, your
after-dinner mint, remember
he was once unfinished and too hot
to hold on your tongue. You fumbled
with him in your hands, waited
for him to cool, to give up
this fantastic heat.
Your mother makes you wear
a shirt for dinner two sizes too big,
says you’ll grow into it. She tightens
your tie, tells you to hold still,
The old couple decorated him
with licorice and icing and peppermint
and he was their tiara, their sweet
little victory, but before they could
show him off to the neighbors
or bite him in two, he ran
straight out the open door.
You poke your food, ask to go
to bed early. Your mother says
you’re selfish, you never appreciate
anything. Your father calms her,
says you deserve a rest, smiles.
You feel betrayed, misled,
like you jumped down
the wrong rabbit hole.
“I ran from the woman,
I ran from the man.
I’ll run from you, see if I can.”
You pretend to be asleep
when he comes into the room.
He laughs, calls you sleeping beauty,
Says you could nap through anything.
Little Ginger Bread Man,
motionless, you never forget
the old man’s hands fingering the dough,
tearing the edges. You wait
for him to look away.
Even after he leaves, you don’t move.
You lay there motionless
as if under glass.
“You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man.”
Jamie Wasserman‘s poetry has appeared in multiple volumes of the Rhysling Anthology, received numerous honorable mentions from the Year’s Best Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, and was nominated for a Pushcart. His first novel Blood and Sunlight: A Maryland Vampire Story was released in August 2010 by Penumbra Publishing and he is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association.