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Gretel still keeps the bones,
never saying why or who,
just creeping down to the old chest
which crouches over secrets.

She pokes roughly at our ribs,
at those thin bones beneath our chest,
holding back our breaths.

Gretel still keeps the bones
rubbing them against her skin
before touching our old stove,
and pulling out the bread

small bones
holding flecks of ash
rigid in her hands.

Gretel still keeps the bones –
they hold our hearts, she says,
they let us breathe. And
she strokes our skin.

We enter the kitchen warily.
It smells of gingerbread.
We know the sweetness held in lies.
Gretel still keeps the bones, we know.
Gretel still keeps the bones.



Mari Ness is a poet, writer, and scholar of fairy tales, whose work has previously appeared in multiple zines, including here in Strange Horizons. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press. For more, check out her occasionally updated webpage at marikness.wordpress.com, or follow her on Twitter at mari_ness.
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25 May 2020

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