Sally Rosen Kindred
YOUR LOYAL MOTHER GRIMM
is nothing like Mother Goose
or Our Mother of Seven
Sorrows or mothers crawling
under the fence to steal
the witch's rampion.
Is real. Born
Dorothea Zimmer of Kassel
in 1756, daughter
of hearthstone and wax, daughter
of broad daylight shining its flags
beyond the black forests of Hesse. Wanted Jacob
and Wilhelm to study the Law
like their father, not lean
their ink shadows
over their papers and onto the dress
of some French girl, tracing the alphabet
of her crooked tooth,
the way her muslin sigh
turned to a tower
a wolf could lock a soft girl in.
Has hands like the loaves in the kitchen,
crust-brown and firm.
Gave birth nine times. Sang La le lu
to the six who lived,
filled their Sunday baths
with water and wine.
Plucked the lice from their sweet-river hair
and would de-louse the Devil
if the Devil came close
enough to the fire.
Widowed by Philipp in Steinau:
one day God's gray room coughed
dusk onto his empty sheets.
Writes her sons at the Lyceum. Says Read this letter
from time to time to remind
yourself of Diligence. Says but
you don't have a father anymore,
and that means a lot.
Has hands like the clock
in the parlor, swinging down
Needs a basin, a hot wick, a bed.
Lies down without a story.
Dreams of meeting Rumpelstiltskin,
of sitting on a chair
with just three legs. Dreams
the forest floor
where her sons have hidden
her bridal shoe.
Meets them on the road from Marburg
because it's been two years,
because she can't wait in the kitchen
while they take the night woods
with the lantern, not
when the needles of spruce
are drifting down their tender hair.
Wants to be the mirror, not the apple.
Wants to be the forest, not the witch.
Hear how she'll lure the Devil
to her lap: you fool, she'll tell
him a story. She only has one—
wolf-tale, wolf at the door, the story of how
you were born.
Signs her letters Your Loyal
Mother. Signs them
Your Loyal Mother Grimm.
[Quotations from Dorothea Grimm's letters appear in Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, by Valerie Paradiz.]
Sally Rosen Kindred is the author of two full-length poetry books from Mayapple Press, No Eden (2011) and Book of Asters (2014). Her most recent chapbook is Darling Hands, Darling Tongue (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). She has twice received poetry awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her poems have appeared in Quarterly West, Blackbird, The Journal, Linebreak, and on Verse Daily.