Spessart Forest Near Fulda, 1977
–with a line drawn from Charles Swinbourne (Hendecasyllabics)
Last night I dreamed Hansel and Gretal knocked
on my door. They asked for water, for shelter.
In the month of the long decline of roses
I overcame my distrust. In their pink cheeks, their
blue eyes, I saw the ones I’d lost. In their blond
curls I remembered silky hair I’d caressed,
tied into long braids. I ushered them in, asked
their names, took their coats, served them broth, piled up straw
for their beds. Through the steam and the candle light
a trick of the eye lulled my fears. I thought I
glimpsed my own beloveds, now lost. I offered them
the dolls, the carved horse, the silver hoop. I showed
them the porcelain cup, the fur hats. I ignored
glinting eyes, sidelong glances, jabbing elbows.
The townsfolk thought I burned to death. That’s what I
heard the girl tell the boy after they pushed me
into the basement. I crawled through the coal cellar
trapdoor before the floors collapsed. I hid under
bracken and ferns, gathered branches and herbs, washed
in streams, patched my shoes with tree bark, ate berries, slept rough.
This morning I stand at the cottage door, wooden
spoon in hand. Becassine, our black Belgian shepherd
stretches out on the floor. A family of
wild boar dashes into the clearing, picks up
Becassine’s scent, turns tail. A woodpecker tap taps
high in a Douglas fir. I tie back my dark
curly hair, stir the stew, add garlic, pepper.
Thin high voices of children singing ride the
wind. They troop single file into the glade, settle
into a circle, unwrap sandwiches. Becassine
dozes on the stone threshold, her black ears point
toward the glade. After lunch, the children play catch.
They spot the cottage, sidle up to stare. Becassine
lifts her head, silent. The children crane necks, try
to peek inside. I retreat into the shadows.
My fingers tighten around the wooden spoon.
I am a dark curly-haired woman with a
black dog alone in Spessart forest near Fulda.
Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Timberline Review, Cirque, Rain Magazine, Poeming Pigeon, and other publications. She was poetry co-editor for the Fall 2017 edition of VoiceCatcher. She received both second place and an honorable mention in the Willamette Writers 2021 Kay Snow Awards in poetry.