Jun 13

Semi-Permanent Guidelines for Building Gretel

by Hannah v warren

You don’t have to be told twice. You’ve read the story. Brother & sister trade bones or cleverness for survival. They leave the forest with arms wrapped around each other. Eyes full of silver & rubies. By now you’ve noticed something is wrong here: this Gretel grows sideways. When you hear the name Gretel, who do you see? She must have a face. Squeeze your eyes tight & think. The face. Is it covered in freckles or barnacles? Move your eyes downward. Maybe her arms end in soft nimble fingers. Or pincers. Maybe Gretel’s legs tremor beneath the ropes the forest witch tied around her. Or they’ve hardened into tree trunks & right beneath her pulpy skin are generations of mother spiders who forget to eat their young. Whatever you see—whatever images of Gretel plant most firmly—you must know that Gretel is more than her thin frame, more than Hansel’s hands. More than her birth and unbirth mothers. More than the ivy growing wayward from her wrists. Gretel is kindling. Any moment she’ll set the forest aflame. Gretel’s voice in song is smooth as river stone & oh how the forest stops to listen. Fawns melt their own muscles when she’s near & gophers faint against the walls of their burrow homes. The stream begins to flow backward. You must know that Gretel never asked for neglect or a brother. Or antlers or scales or extra sets of teeth. Gretel never wanted anything more than a warm belly & a quiet place to rest.



Hannah V Warren is a PhD student at the University of Georgia where she studies speculative narratives and poetics. Her works have recently appeared in Room Magazine, Whiskey Island, and Prism Review.


Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor

Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by APweather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.