The Little Match Girl Burns It All Down

Gretchen Tessmer

The Little Match Girl Burns It All Down

cedar smoke has smoldered up the mountain
a serpent coiled in red is at her feet
the girl who burns it down is on her knees
sparking flames before a scarlet fountain

her hands are burned and scarred in sharp relief
(once a blaze had blistered them to cinder)
now she gathers pine and spruce for tinder
and pitch is slathered on the flames she wreathes

if only those who passed her by had known
they might have bought a matchstick for a dime
they might have brought her in out of the cold
instead they said, “now Heaven is her home”

but she had prayed for warmth above the rest
and Hell is where they stoke the fires best


Gretchen Tessmer is a writer based in the U.S./Canadian borderlands. She writes both poetry and short fiction, with work appearing in Nature, Strange Horizons, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, among other venues.

Author’s Comments: Well…

                          if I were now to tell you what I loved
                          about a sonnet and the way it sings
                          if done correctly, that’s the hardest thing
                          but honestly it comes to me with ease

                          I don’t know if I speak Shakespear-a-nese
                          with any better talent than the rest
                          I cheat the rhyme whenever it feels best
                          which probably means my free verse roots are deep

                          or that I cannot stand to play by rules?
                          not even in the form I love the best
                          but either way I love the way it reads
                          when all the words are settled in their roles

                          sometimes the old ways play a pretty song
                          sometimes the verse is kind and plays along

Sorry, couldn’t resist. And it’s all true. Anyway, I can’t remember exactly what prompt sparked me to give “The Little Match Girl” a new ending but it’s a fairy tale I’ve wanted to play around with for a while. It’s one of those stories where you want to yell through the pages at the townsfolk, “Someone give the poor Little Match Girl a hug! Or a hot meal and a warm place to sleep! Or better yet, all three!” So there, fixed your story for you, Hans Christian Anderson. You’re welcome 😉

Image Credit:  Fire abstract (Hanna Kovalchuk /Pixabay) is combined with the silhouette of a little girl (pnghut) holding what appears to be a spent match that’s smoking (pngtree).


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