Frau Drosselmeyer Loves the Summer

by Virginia M. Mohlere

Her story is always a Christmas tale --
Every Christmas an anniversary.

She stepped on a mouse
    (gut-churning crack of spine,
    the pressure and release of its bursting
    under her foot);
she followed the doll-turned-man through a world
where food came to life
to dance for her,
jumped out of boxes to grin at her:
fixed smiles, matte eyes,
leaping too high,
spinning too fast
    until she felt dizzy,
    even holding the Christmas-toy's hand under furs.

Then the cocoa-man yanked his hand off,
    poured a cup for her from his arm.
The coffee woman leaned over,
    and espresso flowed from her mouth.
The tea persons shredded their skin
    into a pot of hot water.
Clara shuddered, bowed,
    let the cups pile up.
Bit back screams
    when the sandy-skinned marzipan people
    broke off their fingers,
when the gingerbread children
    held their arms to her mouth.

It turns her stomach now --
chocolate, cookies, tea.
Anything sweet.

She returned home with the doll-man,
but not to reality --
the world subtly different:
    An ever-present uncle-to-be.
    A soldier-straight young man
    chewing walnuts like candy.

    He waited for her.
From one Christmas to the next,
    he waited to kiss her.
From one Christmas to the next
    until he gave her a ring.
From one Christmas to the next
    to lead her out of church.

Between Christmases,
he stood behind her chair,
staring with licorice-black eyes.

To the sound of Christmas bells,
she became Frau Drosselmeyer.
    (She learned the meaning
    of the awkward conversation
    with her mother.)
In the morning, her godfather --
    now her uncle --
over his coffee,
sugar cubes
    (five, six)
into his cup;
chocolate buttons
into his mouth.

Winter to spring,
he watched her belly
for signs of a new generation
to meddle with.

But before he could bargain
with mermaids or fairies,
Clara woke to summer
in a shaking house,
Uncle's sharp cry from the basement.

The body she uncovered
next to the steam engine
was black as iron
    (dull as dross, she thought,
    don't laugh don't laugh),
stiff as the clockwork dolls
thrown against the wall.
Hans-Peter turned to her,
mouth dropping open
in a long-toothed, silent howl.

Clara sold the toy shop --
furniture and stock --
at a loss
and marched back to her father's house.

Hans-Peter took his old station
behind her chair.
He stands so silent
that no one noticed when
his legs began to fuse,
jaw to harden.
At Christmas,
she will place him by the tree.

Virginia Mohlere lives in the swamps of Houston and writes with a fountain pen that is extinct in the wild. Her work has been seen in Cabinet des Fées, Fickle Muses, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and MungBeing.

She says, "the mask that chose me is made of birch bark and white velvet, hung with grey pearls and black coral. I wear it on the inside. It is one of my true faces."

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