One of their picture books would no doubt show
The two lost children wandering in a maze
Of anthropomorphic tree limbs: the familiar crow
Swoops down upon the trail they leave of corn,
Tolerant of the error of their ways.
Hand in hand they stumble onto the story,
Brighteyed with beginnings of fever, scared
Half to death, yet never for a moment
Doubting the outcome that had been prepared
Long in advance: Girl saves brother from oven,
Appalling witch dies in appropriate torment;
Her hoarded treasure buys them their parents' love.
* * *
"As happy an ending as any fable
Can provide," squawks the crow, who had expected more:
Delicate morsels from the witch's table.
It's an old story—in the modern version
The random children fall to random terror.
You see it nightly on the television:
Cameras focus on the lopeared bear
Beside the plastic ukulele, shattered
In a fit of rage—the lost children are
Found in the first place we now think to look:
Under the fallen leaves, under the scattered
Pages of a lost children's picture book.
* * *
But if we leave terror waiting in the rain
For the wrong bus, or if we have terror find,
At the very last moment the right train,
Only to get off at the wrong station—
If we for once imagine a happy ending,
Which is, as always, a continuation,
It's because the happy ending's a necessity,
It isn't just a sentimental ploy"
Without the happy ending there would be
No one to tell the story to but the witch,
And the story is clearly meant for the girl and boy
Just now about to step into her kitchen.