The Woodcutter’s Wife (Mary’s Child)

This story is paired with “Marienkind” from Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


One morning the woodcutter, filled with sorrow, went out to his work
in the woods. While he was chopping wood suddenly there stood before
him a beautiful tall woman with a crown of shining stars on her head.
She said to him, “I am the Virgin Mary, mother of the Baby Jesus. You
are poor and needy. Bring your child to me. I will take her with me
and be her mother and care for her.”

— “Marienkind” (Grimm tr. Ashliman)

I was not there, that day, in the woods
when the shining light appeared to him,
the ghost-woman, heaven-crowned,
who stopped him splitting pine.

He came home too early,
no logs strapped to his back,
shirt unstained, tankard full,
his brow as dark and cold as pine.

Wife, said he, where is our daughter?
The queen of heaven came to me.
She has offered to take the child.

I could not hear the rest:
something about milk and honey,
angels, sweetmeats. I heard only
the choir of demons in my mind.

The girl clung to my legs,
tiny half-moon fingernails
scratching my flesh, her small
mouth howling sacrilege.
She was not Mary’s child.


mary-mcmyneMary McMyne is the author of Wolf Skin, a chapbook (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She has been the recipient of the Faulkner Prize for a Novel-in-Progress and the Sustainable Arts Foundation Promise Award. Her stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Pedestal Magazine, Los Angeles Review, New Delta Review, Word Riot, Poetry International, Apex Magazine, and many other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award. She teaches creative writing at Lake Superior State University, where she co-edits the journal Border Crossing