Featured Poem • December 2016
“This is how I’ll find you,” you said. You pointed to the broken twigs fallen to the snow’s belly, trees’ detritus. I tried to believe they meant something One kiss—your warm mouth burned my blue lips— and you were gone. I wanted to follow in your tread like the page in the carol. The night before, our breath smoked upward like escaping souls. The wolves howled. White screams. “They mean to devour us with fear!” I whimpered. “Oh, no, mädchen, they’re singing joy! Joy in the night, the woods, the blood that runs warm through their veins though all the world is cold. Would you blame a thing that sings?” Your voice strung a filament of song from tree to tree. I swear it woke the icy stars and made them wink encouragement. You rubbed my frozen hands. Through my gloves I felt the holes worn through the wool of yours. Poor boy, I thought, dressed in rags. In the dawn you left. Now I wander through the snow alone. At night I pretend the stars are Hansel’s stones, leading home. Such pretty lies. My home is gone, my village and my people. All I have left is the mere hope of you, the stranger in the woods playing a game of hero. At night I gather twigs and branches, light them as you taught me, sing your star-song to keep the wolves and frost at bay. The trees shimmer with ice like Ashenputtel’s lovely mother, her grandmamma and aunts attired in ballgowns and brilliants. They float, they float, to the hum of the wind and someone’s wild singing. Mother Holle fluffs her feather quilt. I would lie quiet underneath. But, foolishly, I sing your song believing you will come before starvation or the soldiers do. By day I walk. I can barely place one foot before the next. So hungry. I sit beneath this tree a little while, smell nutmeg rising from the pine bark. I wake-dream of a gingerbread hut. The witch’s glowing oven seems a pleasant means to death. I will expire with a smile like the little match girl, dreaming of fire. I look out at the black twigs on white snow. How had I failed to notice until now that they’re laid out like staffs of music, like the pages Papa played from long ago? On the sheet of snow, the twig-notes rustle. An alarm? I hear an ocean sound— waves of wings. A great murder heads towards me, humming your twig-tune, their black forms look like notes against the paper-white sky. Steaming bread they carry in their beaks and from one crow’s claws your red mittens dangle, like a letter saying I keep all my promises.
Sandi Leibowitz is a classical singer, school librarian and friend to dragons. Her speculative poetry and fiction appear in Metaphorosis, Polu Texni, Not One of Us, Mithila Review and other magazines and anthologies. She has ridden in a hot-air balloon over the Rio Grande, traveled in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela and visited with Arthur in Avalon. She lives in a raven’s wood, next door to bogles, in New York City. Please visit her at sandileibowitz.com.
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