Dessert Island

Gretel recognized the old woman
when her raft drifted nearer,
but she’d grown, filled out,
maybe.… “Your brother?”
it was him or me, she thought
“Didn’t make it.”

He’d have liked the cool spring
of chocolate milk,
the rum-ball tree,
its trunk dark chocolate,
its fronds lime sugar;
the shells scattered about
were Turkish delight,
the tiny crabs crawling
up and down the tree,
hard candy shells
with creamy centers,
but the sand was just sand.

It was hot as hell,
and the sand burned her feet,
yet the candy didn’t melt,
what was that about?
She caught speculative looks
from the witch,
who must have been sick
almost to death of sweets.

The raft, already furred
with crystals of pink sugar,
the hardest thing around,
a split board, and
who dropped off first.

No refrigeration,
she ate all she could,
crabs finished the rest,
and it was sugar
morning noon and night;
weeks went by.

She was going mad,
the crabs had lost their tang,
she couldn’t stand more sugar,
and was losing weight again,
on the horizon a sail:
quickly climb the tree,
wave her shirt like a fool,
a demented fool,
and a hungry one.


—David C. Kopaska-Merkel