It was a list of lies that I would tell my daughter
Es war einmal, it was easy, quite, to love—
Gestating in two hundred years of German fairytales,
We believed to alchemize and to anatomize were, in this case,
The same—that she would have two eyes to see
In three dimensions, but also to see one thing in several ways:
Her hardening hipbones both ivory ilia,
And the petrified, white forewings of a butterfly;
Or else, her heart a wingless hummingbird—little one, that is why
The ribs are called a cage.
It’s true: there was a clear beginning, and an end,
And sometime in between she sprouted ears, and started listening—
I confessed she, like her Mother, shared her blood
With at least one Massachusetts witch; most likely
It was the one accused of eating crows.
I could teach her little but how to be afraid of shadows,
And to untangle rainbows from spilled gasoline.
And so I told her that the sirens outside were a banshee’s cry,
And spoke above the kettle, whistling until it boiled dry,
And above rats scuttling between the walls.
And each word she heard would be a hard-learned lesson;
That little girls who prick their fingers
On the outer whorls of wildflowers;
Who learn to braid wet goldenrod
Into wreathes, or weave a quilt of silver cobwebs,
Will be the first to solve the ugly algebra of ever after,
The first to crack their cradles’ bars for tinder,
The first to bleed, and the last ones to forgive the lie.
My German’s rough, but we live happily and contentedly until the day we die
And, little one, I think that end is as good as any.