the path that cuts through famine

Loneliness is a hunger that sours the gut—but when cupboards
hold only crumbs, a woman can endure the absence
of laughter bubbling, can usher small bodies away
from her hearth. What matters what we strew—

white pebbles, lentils, or bread crusts? Whose lives
are the better to starve or plumb on confections and cake?
Yesterday, I drew the paths to home in marzipan
and then ate until I ached. Why do I never feel full?

Gingerbread cookies, peanut brownies, another scoop
of ice cream—even sweets bitter the bored tongue.
These woods fill with hungry things like me, a want
that guides into the underbrush,

while I crouch in preoccupation—food or children? Another meal
for a woodcutter or the stepchildren? Birds flit. Some peck
what settles apath. Others stand as white beacons.
In our kitchen, we have an object like a cage,

iron whorled, big enough to crawl inside. I keep my books there,
close the door, pretend they’re simple recipes to guard.
Except you, no one sits to eat what I bake—slumped shoulders, the axe
beside the kitchen door. You rub the calluses on your hand,

lingering over the cracks. I bring you hot, sweet
meat pie, watch your mouthfuls, until you ask for more.
When you reach for me, I feel your bones—fingers, jaw,
knobby shelf of hips. Is there nothing to eat

out there in the forest? I murmur against your throat, At least we have
this warmth. But then, that boy and girl call out demands—
for their own warmth to consume on the porch. Mother,
they say. I shudder, sense what starves inside their skin.

Their little hands, sticky fingers I am unable to bear.
But with you, I no longer ache. I’m like a vase of jewels
and stones. Pull out any rock and worry it. Place a pin at your throat.
Slide onto a finger a promise sure to soften and reshape with time.

Have you had enough yet? you ask. My answer is never,
but instead we kiss, our mouths sweet
with sugared tarts. In the morning when they’ve left
with the last of the bread, I hide your axe.

— Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman

Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman’s collaborative poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Devilfish Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Faerie Magazine, The Drowning Gull, Yellow Chair Review, Strange Horizons, Rose Red Review, and the anthologies The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, 2016), Red Sky: poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, 2016), Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, 2017), and They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018).

Editor’s Note: The artwork is from a Russian site describing an open class in fine arts on a theme of “Houses for fairy-tale heroes” (the specific image is phpoPpyAD_Otkrytoe-zanyatie-domiki-skazochnyh-geroev_3.png)

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