I learned more
than how to trick a witch.
I learned the sickle of starvation
can hollow out a mother’s heart,
turn hands that soothe
into calloused palms that banish.
Discovered an appetite so unnatural
it drains godliness from the gullet,
leaving a lakebed for the devil to pour in.
I learned a little brother
is more than gnarled fingers in your hair,
more than father’s favorite.
He is the one who can make gristle
taste ambrosia to a cannibal,
one who keeps hope from melting next to doom.
I know an oven
Some just find their fires early.
I know girlhood
is flimsy sheathe to be escaped,
and the longer worn,
the longer grows the shadow of the wood.
My own, stripped off
while fleeing that foul cottage,
cannot be missed, or mourned
or longed for,
as I am one who fears not
hunger, danger, pain—
I bear the bold face of she
whose flesh was held to flame.