The crumb trail is gone
food for the birds of time
and there is no return
to childhood we have come
too far. From mothers' arms
to stepmothers and slaps
to witches' ovens, and then home
another way, to places not the same.
Where do they come from, then,
Who dropped them one by one
along the sidewalk?
How can I
pick up these shiny frail
signposts for homeward travel —
following their trail
would I retrace whose steps
to what long-dusty backfiled memory?
I need no track
to lead me to the paper forest now.
I'll let them lie.
do not rely
on scavenger-prey or gravel.
Old photos, pencil-ends, and all the Library
of links to Other Places —
beware their Janus faces.
These strewings cannot tell —
no toes or heels — which way
to home, or to the cookie house?—
they do not say.
What clues have we
but our own and each others' memory?
When visible paths
are only yarns unravelled
set by one of us Gretels as a key
for clingers to her labyrinthine past,
where do we go for futures, at the last?
About the Author: Eve Sweetser is an academic, linguist, and poet in Berkely, California. This poem is based on the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.
Copyright © 1999 by Eve Sweetser. The poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.