​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

N A N C Y   C H E N   L O N G

G R E T E L ' S   E R R A T A   T O   H E R   F A T H E R ' S   V E R S I O N   O F   T H E   S T O R Y   

 

                                                                                                  -In Germany, both children and wives could be sold in times of famine. – John Witte, Jr.                                                                                                 


We could not have known that he traded
us for an acre of junipered land
and a sliver of silver on that July morning
when he roused us out of bed,
took us woodward with only a clutch of acorns to eat.
Hours trekking in the swelter. The steady flow
of Father’s honey wine, cloying.
                It was Hansel’s fascination
with debris—twigs, pebbles, polished
hyoid bones, all overflowing his pocket—
that foiled Father’s plan
as my brother dropped such detritus
to make room for other trifles.

Exhausted, Hansel was the first to fall.
He lay curled, positioned fetal on bed of needles
loosed from the pines. When we awoke
to find ourselves alone, we both cried,
at first confused. Then we saw the Mead Moon
           disced high in the night.
How grateful we were for her argent light,
the way her rays glanced off of each pebble
sparking the trail like a string of fireflies.

Once back home, I rushed into Mother’s sewing room,
a bouquet of blue hydrangeas in hand, to find
no trace of her. Visiting an aunt, Father said.
I later learned he’d bartered my mother
                        for a hive of bees and a thimble
full of magic beans.

After our return, wary of my sideways glances,
Father took to locking us in the bedroom.
Hansel remained oblivious—no trusting soul,
rather, he was always elsewhere, his mind abuzz
with fairytales. He heeded far too many
yarns of old ogres who ate abandoned children.

And during this time of the Great Famine,
his obsession was not without cause.
I’m told that was the fate
of my mother, to feed a family of thirteen.

That final time into the heart of the Black Forest,
Father lured us with nothing but our night clothes.
No minted pebbles, no food, no fire,
despite what you’ve read. This time wiser,
I grabbed Hansel’s hand and ran. 

I did not kill a witch like Father’s story says.
But his ending is true, in part. He had grown rich.
And Hansel and I did find a home. We were taken in
by an elderly baker and his candy-making wife,
a tender woman whom Hansel and I nick-named
Mutter Ente.
                Father never did see us again,
although we saw him, a millstone, beautifully round
like the full Mead Moon, smashed into his skull.
I once thought it took thirty-three foot-pounds
of pressure to crack a man’s temple.
Imagine my surprise when it took only seventeen.
I crafted a short tale of it,
“Herr Korbes.” You should read it.

Nancy Chen Long is the author of the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). You’ll find her recent and forthcoming work in Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Bat City Review, Superstition Review, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. She received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. As a volunteer with the Bloomington Writers Guild, Nancy coordinates a reading series and works with others to offer free poetry workshops to the public. She reviews poetry books and interviews poets at Poetry Matters (readwritepoetry.blogspot.com), as well as on her blog, nancychenlong.blogspot.com. She lives in south-central Indiana and works at Indiana University. www.nancychenlong.com