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.
From Starting from Sleep: New and Selected Poems by Charles Martin. Copyright © 2002 by Charles Martin. Reprinted with the permission of The Overlook Press.