Fairy Tale – Poem

Fairy Tale – Poem

Cathleen Calbert

Everyone knows

who the witch is.

We’ve seen her

dropping her kids off at daycare.

She’s the anesthesiologist

who hires a British au pair.

She’s the teacher

who gave you a D.

She’s the woman

who isn’t smiling.

A lovely young thing

into cigarettes and barbiturates

failed at suburban housewifery.

Her children ran off

with their grandmother.

Her husband swam in his own pool of gin.

Their cottage creaked open

like a Cape Cod beach shack.

It moaned, “Love me, love me,”

on summer mornings.

In the winter, it stayed in a trance.

The witch is mad.

She’s fruit-loops.

She’s ding-dong nuts.

Besides, she’s not the brightest bulb

in our poetic chandelier.

She can’t remember anything.

She’s been alone too long

in her red nightie.

In the old days,

she bedded the milkman,

the mailman, the guy from ups.

Witches drive men crazy.

Then witches drive men crazy.

“Love me, love me,”

on summer mornings.

In the winter, a trance.

She’s grown lonely as a flasher,

as a sheep rancher,

as an underpaid parlor maid.

She has been dreaming

of the flashy disappearances

of sister-witches,

how they clawed their way

to that moon.

She types out her own death warrant:

A boy and a girl,

brother and sister,

two pumpkin seeds,

jog into the forest

with seven finger-puppets,

a bottle of their father’s homebrew,

and a number of questions.

Little Ingrid and Petrovich

punch each other’s stomachs

with the puppets sewn

by their put-upon stepmother.

They throw their golden bottle

through the witch’s window

though no glass shatters.

There is no glass.

The damn bottle lands in her lap.

Petrovich pokes his head in.

Mr. Inquisitor.

The witch is lean

as an ex-model,

her smoky growl theatrical.

She takes him into her starving arms

and calls him Little Richard,

sweet gherkin,

my final folly.

She diddles his pizzle

and asks him to rock away

on top of her,

a boat lost at sea.

He does what he’s told.

He’s a good boy.

He plants his seed.

Yet her uterus is blessed with emptiness.

There’s no way around this.

She’s in her forties.

She writes fourteen poems for him

when he leaves her

to sleep off the beer buzz.

The witch tongues another Valium,

ocean eyes on the moon.

“I’m a circus freak,” she says.

“God’s little Jesus.”

“Love me, love me,”

Ingrid pipes up,

taking her turn.

“Love me, love, me,”

the witch moans into her cold soup.

Ingrid nestles into her neck

until the witch cuddles the girl,

feeling the matching fingertips,

mother-of-pearl rosary,

and ruby nipples,

then finds the peach-divide

of her daughter’s body,

and eats the child out

of the woman,

her rival,

her devotee,

her replacement.

Cathleen Calbert is the author of two books of poetry: Lessons in Space and Bad Judgment. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including The Best American Poetry 1995, Ms., The New Republic, and Poetry. She has been awarded The Discovery Award from The Nation, The Gordon Barber Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize. New work is forthcoming in The Southern Review and The Women’s Review of Books. Currently, she is a Professor of English at Rhode Island College.

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