How Gretel Gets Her Groove Back

How Gretel Gets Her Groove Back

If you can’t be fed, be bread.”    Rumi

She didn’t opt for the beach—
water wasn’t her element.
And oh, how she yearned to yearn
for the solace of another body,
but the smell of human sweat
triggered her to weeping,
and her trust issues ran
too deep to be unseated
by mere trysts. She unlocked
the vault of her hands first—
plunging them through flour’s
powdery kiss, drumming them
against the sifter, hefting dough’s
sticky weight. She whipped
and rolled. She cut and poured.
She put everything into the oven.
The neighborhood air filled
with the waft of cake, cookies,
gingerbread, buns sprinkled
with every variety of delight:
the sweetness she had baked
into being. Of course, they came,
the children, with their drooling
curiosity and laid-bare hunger.
Eat, she said, her heart dancing
to the music of their busy teeth,
their unwary, full-mouthed questions,
the closing door as they left her
full and happy and free.


I know, you didn’t ask me, but I need
to tell you how swinging like a pendulum
inside that cage, how my body became
itself a cage, how my mind sprouted bars
and I beat about in it without time—
how the past fell from me in thick patches,
how the future lodged itself in my throat
a gnarl of unmasticated matter
poised to hurl itself in either direction.
Gretel, Gretel. How she whispered my name
into the echo chamber of my ear,
locked her eyes to mine and for a moment
the wild orchestra of fear in me stilled,
how she fed me—minutes and hope and will.

Gretel’s Notes on the Pandemic

Just like that,
you can become the enemy—
evidence, symptom,

This is the world’s harshest lesson
—our bodies are fragile
fortresses to which we are bound.
The breach is always coming
until it comes.

How fear unmasks us—
in it we learn what we are
willing to sacrifice,
which are our true gods.

Some will pray,
even as they cast you out.
Some will say
your nightmare is of your own making.
Some will lay
their souls at the feet of any power.
Some will pay
whatever price honor demands.
Some will play
music from the rooftops,
clear notes ringing through
the deathly silence.

Nothing will change
but you will not be the same.
Or. Everything will change
and you will remain
yourself. Or. Both
true things will live on
together, which is to say
this moment is past
and present, and always


  • Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of two collections of poetry, Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press 2014), and Honeyfish (New Issues & Peepal Tree, 2019), and co-editor of Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry (Northwestern, 2020). Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Tin House, and Guernica, among others. Her most recent honors include nominations for a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, the 2020 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, and the Library of Virginia Literary Awards. Alleyne was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She currently resides in Harrisonburg, VA, where she is an associate professor of English at James Madison University, and the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Get more information about Lauren at and follow her at @poetLKA on social media.

  • Presented here are a series of futuristic pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists issued in France in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910. Originally in the form of paper cards enclosed in cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards, the images depicted the world as it was imagined to be like in the then distant year of 2000. Due to financial difficulties the cards by Jean-Marc Côté were never actually distributed and only came to light many years later after the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov chanced upon a set and published them in 1986, with accompanying commentary, in the book Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000. For more information, please see