Aschenputtel by Eleanor Abbot

Aschenputtle by Eleanor Abbot (1875 – 1935)

Walking through the field
on your way home from school.
The path leads through naked brush
along the farthest edge
of suburban wasteland.
The spring sunlight pours upon you.
Baby buds are crowning
bright and magnificent, each bud
quickened and specific in it,
but you can’t see it,
you can’t hold any of it.

Your new cat’s eye glasses
could bring it all into sharp relief
but you aren’t wearing them.
You can walk no faster than this
you think, walking forward.
The schoolyard shrieks and jeers
still ring in your ears
like sharp barbs and arrows
that prick and pin the tittered laughter
of the other girls on you.

Emergence drifts away from you,
the budding shrubs and yellow wintered grasses
along the edge of path shrivel and blur.
Nothing can enter that hazy bubble
you have made, that empty sphere
of shadowed space to hide within,
grieving because it is so dim.

Then there’s the girl, in the tattered dress,
kneeling in the ashes.
She has no mother, its true.
Her father deserted her,
her stepmother despised her
and her stepsisters turned from her.

Only a girl like this
can know what’s happened to you.
If she were here she would
reach out and place your glasses
back on your face
and tell you of how she planted a twig
that grew to become a hazel tree.
And though you might see nothing,
you would be seen all the same.

****************

Aschenputtle was the name of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version of the tale of Cinderella written in the 19th century. Their story is more intense than the more sanitized versions that we know today. There is no fairy godmother–instead, help comes to her from a wishing tree that the she plants on her mother’s grave.

These words were also inspired by Margaret Atwood’s poem, The Girl Without Hands.