Claudia Cortese

At the woods’ edge, leaves chatter, shadow

eats the green. Do not enter, the girl’s been warned.

Out here, sun undresses everyone—their skin shines

but a dark cord tugs, some need she cannot name.

Ginger & honey,

pine, cinnamon—

the spiced air thickens as she walks

deeper through the forest.

Gretel sees a white-haired woman call to her.

Fried maple with boiled strawberry, a bowl

of goat’s milk passes between them: girl-speak

shimmers, light on water.

When Gretel says she must leave, the woman warns,

Bones glitter in the trees. A gang of ghosts

wakes at dusk. You should sleep where it’s safe.

On a straw bed, the two curl.

All night, the witch eats her

& when the spell breaks, Gretel gives her

a long low kiss.

Claudia Cortese’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and DIAGRAM, among others. Cortese just completed her first of book poetry, which explores trauma, myth, fairy tales, and girlhood. She lives and teaches in New Jersey.

“The suburban townhouse I grew up in had what I thought were two porches. It wasn’t until I moved into a run-down old house the summer before my second year of college, that I realized those weren’t porches—they were a concrete square at our front door and a back deck. I didn’t understand the magic of a front porch until the summer my friends and I rented that house. We’d found a ratty couch on the side of the road and carried it three blocks to our porch, where we spent countless hours—drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, strumming the communal guitar, discussing our existential crises as pot smoke rose to the stars. My first porch taught me how to be both in the world and not: to witness moon’s bone eye between green leaves, the crickets’ wiry cries in the grass, and yet be separate from them. In other words, it taught me how to be a writer.”