In the woods behind the house
I built a tiny city from sticks
and rolled matchbox cars down

moss-lined streets where
everyone in every building
kept my secret.

I collected candles of all shapes.
Arranged and rearranged them in my bedroom,
but I wouldn’t let them burn.

A girl who loves the music
of white cotton clothes pinned to a line
will grow to be a woman like me.

The wind took my city apart bit by bit.
My stepmother ironed
all the garments into silence.

I imagined Gretel’s
rough strong fingers
climbing up Rapunzel’s coiled hair.

On a single night,
behind my bedroom door,
I held a match to every wick.

Alison Prine
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