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Gretel

A woman is born to this:
sift, measure, mix, roll thin.

She learns the dough until
it folds into her skin and there is

no difference. Much later
she tries to lose it. Makes bets

with herself and wins enough
to keep trying. One day she begins

that long walk in unfamiliar woods.
She means to lose everything

she is. She empties her dark pockets,
dropping enough crumbs

to feed all the men who have ever
touched her or wished.

When she reaches the clearing
she is almost transparent—

so thin
the old woman in the house seizes

only the brother. You know the rest:
She won’t escape that oven. She’ll eat

the crumbs meant for him, remember
something of his touch, reach

for the sifter and the cup.

—Andrea Hollander

from House Without a Dreamer, 1993
Story Line Press, Ashland, OR

Copyright 1993 by Andrea Hollander Budy.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Story Line Press from House Without a Dreamer, 1993. Copyright 1993 by Andrea Hollander Budy. For further permissions information, contact Permissions Department, Story Line Press, mail@storylinepress.com.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Andrea Hollander (1947- ) is the author of five poetry collections, including Landscape with Female Figure: New and Selected Poems 1982-2012 (Autumn House Press, 2014).

Learn more about Andrea Hollander at The Poetry Foundation.