Louise Glück's “Gretel in Darkness” (first published in her 1975 collection The House on Marshland) explores trauma through the lens fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel." The Gretel of this poem is tormented by horrific memories of the witch she murdered in order to rescue her brother. Her father and brother refuse to acknowledge her suffering, however preferring to believe that life has returned to normal and thus abandoning Gretel to her own pain. Written in edgy, jolting free verse, "Gretel in Darkness" evokes the claustrophobia and isolation of trauma.
This is the ...
... are dead.
I hear the ...
... . . .
Now, far from ...
... it is years.
No one remembers. ...
... it never happened.
But I killed ...
... that gleaming kiln—
Nights I turn ...
... Am I alone?
... fire in earnest.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Poems Out Loud — Louise Glück herself reads a selection of her poetry.
Hansel and Gretel — The fairy tale that inspired this poem.
Little Red Riding Hood — For another poem that tackles a classic fairy tale from a woman's perspective, check out our guide on Carol Ann Duffy's "Little Red Cap."
In the Poet's Own Words — Hear Glück talk about her work in this 1982 interview.
Glück's Life and Work — A short biography and links to more of Glück's poems from the Poetry Foundation.
1This is the world we wanted.
2All who would have seen us dead
3are dead. I hear the witch's cry
4break in the moonlight through a sheet
5of sugar: God rewards.
6Her tongue shrivels into gas . . .
7Now, far from women's arms
8and memory of women, in our father's hut
9we sleep, are never hungry.
10Why do I not forget?
11My father bars the door, bars harm
12from this house, and it is years.
13No one remembers. Even you, my brother,
14summer afternoons you look at me as though
15you meant to leave,
16as though it never happened.
17But I killed for you. I see armed firs,
18the spires of that gleaming kiln—
19Nights I turn to you to hold me
20but you are not there.
21Am I alone? Spies
22hiss in the stillness, Hansel,
23we are there still and it is real, real,
24that black forest and the fire in earnest.