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On this glorious spring day, I looked at my blog stats and saw that the most common search words lately have been: personal, suicide, writing and Sylvia Plath. I should probably start an anonymous blog for depressives so I can give this audience what they long for: dark and more dark, funny dark, scary dark, sexy dark, down into the underworld where fat little devils wait with forks and knives dark. Because I know the rest of you want descriptions of nights out and cat antics and stories that startle but don’t make you worry about my mental health, and to see if I’ve mentioned you lately.
I just came from a brunch meeting with Lisa and Laura about the possible fairy tale event at the Cathedral to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. What we said is top secret but I can tell you my favorite Grimm’s tale: Hansel and Gretel. I feel a great desire to write my own version of the story, which wouldn’t change the plot—the plot is perfect—or the characters, also perfect. I would just play around the edges, embroider, embellish, or simply write it down as I remember it and imagine that I’m making up this story that will frighten and embolden children for hundreds of years, and prime their consciousness for three key ideas: a) siblings should stick together, b) sugar is deadly and c) parents can be forgiven much if the unemployment rate is through the roof due to the machinations of the wealthy.
My cat Fitzroy is unhappy. I have fed him, brushed him, cuddled him, scolded him. None of it changes his belligerant distress, his meows and meows that make me feel guilty for writing instead of thinking up new games with string.
It occurs to me that the Mouchette has not shown her face since I got home, so it’s possible he murdered her and is now feeling bad about it, wanting me to bring her back to life. She wouldn’t do that to him. She’d make a good Gretel. He’d do better in another fairy tale, the lazy brother who doesn’t win the princess, who sets off on his quest and immediately starts complaining about how unfair everything is.
I really thought by now I’d be a witch with my own mossy cottage. Not a child-eating witch, but a woman with power in her hands, trees that know her name and a few humble but tidy rooms without landlord or electric bill.
My life feels as thin as tissue. Fear does that—takes away the solidity of things. But there’s no escape from fear. I used to think there was. I thought I’d beat it; grow strong and wise, etc. But it’s here for good and I have to accept the stones it throws in my path: the longing to give up, escape, forget, not love anyone anymore.
Fitzroy is staring at me now. It’s 4:48. Not even the elderly in Florida eat dinner this early. But I’m going to feed him anyway and then go out and buy some lemon ice cream, a bottle of vodka or a dirty novel. Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody.
Ice cream is by far the most likely, by the way. Vodka’s no fun alone and I can write my own dirty novels. Reading fairy tales has given me lots of ideas.
Gretel in Darkness
This is the world we wanted.
All who would have seen us dead
are dead. I hear the witch’s cry
break in the moonlight through a sheet
of sugar: God rewards.
Her tongue shrivels into gas . . .
Now, far from women’s arms
and memory of women, in our father’s hut
we sleep, are never hungry.
Why do I not forget?
My father bars the door, bars harm
from this house, and it is years.
No one remembers. Even you, my brother,
summer afternoons you look at me as though
you meant to leave,
as though it never happened.
But I killed for you. I see armed firs,
the spires of that gleaming kiln–
Nights I turn to you to hold me
but you are not there.
Am I alone? Spies
hiss in the stillness, Hansel,
we are there still and it is real, real,
that black forest and the fire in earnest.