Obedience, or the Lying Tale by Jennifer Chang
I will do everything you tell me, Mother. I will charm three gold hairs from the demon’s head. I will choke the mouse that gnaws an apple tree’s roots and keep its skin for a glove. To the wolf, I will be pretty and kind and curtsy his crossing of my path. The forest, vocal even in its somber tread, rages. A slope ends in a pit of foxes drunk on rotten brambles of berries and the raccoons ransack a rabbit’s unmasked hole. What do they find but a winter’s heap of droppings? A stolen nest, the cracked shell of another creature’s child. I imagine this is the rabbit way and I will not stray, Mother, into the forest’s thick, where the trees meet the dark, though I have known misgivings of light as a hot hand that flickers against my neck. The path ends at a river I must cross. I will wait for the ferryman to motion me through. Into the waves he etches with his oar a new story: a silent girl runs away, a silent girl is never safe. I will take his oar in my hand. I will learn the boat’s rocking and bring myself back and forth. To be good is the hurricane of caution. I will know indecision’s rowing, the water I lap into my lap as he shakes his withered head. Behind me is the forest. Before me the field, a loose run of grass. I stay in the river, Mother, I study escape.
To learn more about Jennifer Chang, visit her page on the Poetry Foundation website by clicking here.
This poem comes from The History of Anonymity: Poems.
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