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Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers

Rapunzel Walks Out on Her Narrative

Outside her tower, meant to crumble, ashlar to lath,
into the pond, she plunges. From brackish water, tresses flow.

That night, green leaves under snow, crisp
scent in the dark, burnt hair, acrid shanks curling.

Hollow like a reed, like a wick, are the days gone
her youth, ground hard and stony.

The hunger, the garden, the leaf: her days held these too.
The stones grind inside her, mortar cracked and shifting.

She plucks the flowers’ husky brown heads, broadcasts
the seed, throws generous handfuls into briars and sedge.

She knows all the wild lettuces, where the cress grow,
this blood, these walls, herself more than echo.

She walks, tower and ladder, the substance
meant to fill this chambered space.

The Children of Hamlin Regret

There’s always a reason, rats
that bite and drive them, problems
that plague them, never as much
as they need. No matter how quietly
or how carefully we’re sitting, soothing,
they instruct us to need. Approval,
anger, smallness, sanctuary
until there’s nothing left to bleed.

So he took away the rats.
A shining release, a promise,
free. They were happy, sure
they’d finally achieved
what was necessary to succeed.
Without the rats, they’d make it,
we’d see. It was rats all along,
their sneaking and scurrying,
lying and breeding: no space,
no choices, no peace.
Only missed deeds.

If the sun shone brightly,
if we played in the streets,
if we sought our joys
and forgot our griefs,
it was only a reprieve.
Too soon, night came.
Curtains closed, lights dimmed,
shutters dark and darkening.
The rats came creeping in.

So quickly rats come,
and it all goes away.
Doors lock, and we wait.
They break us because
they love us, they break us
because they are us. We resist
touch, grow shifty, layer clothes,
leave hair unruly. Rat-catcher,
pest-luller, vermin-singer:
we watch for him like the moon.

The Kind Girl Speaks Her Peace

after Charles Perrault’s “The Fairies”

I serve the words, hard and sharp,
my body their lapidary, each word

chosen carefully. Start to finish, the gift cuts
and scrapes, turning me to its shape.

Tumbled inside, I’m ground
glass, splinters and fragments
embedded, so many occlusions;
a belly full of rocks
would be easier to swallow,
only a mouthful
of broken teeth.

I bend my heart again and again,
my life precipitate, latticed and brittle.

I’m sanded smooth by diamonds
and pearls, a lavage of jewels.

Solution and nidus, I vault the limit
of what’s held inside; the gifts I sibyl

I give — brain sand to bladder stones —
all the body’s acids turned from their homes.

Everyone wants
the kind girl. Not me.

➥ Bio