The Witch Within and Without
Funny how some young people show
in their face how they will look when old,
almost as though the age patina exists
from birth. By wiping away the green oxidation
with imagination, the future spills out
like termites from a log, the past an imprinted
image burned into a shroud.
In the computer lab this young girl sat like a
sphinx scrying the screen for a vision of some
digital dragon come to breathe fire. So intent,
not knowing the flesh would melt away like
gears turning in cogs, the simulacra of her today,
the witch within, the appearance she would take on.
But which witch?
One staked in the dark ages like some collector’s
insect? Twisted and torn on the inquisitor’s rack,
human threads wrapped around a spindle?
Both witches and more.
She is and will become the hanged witches Sarah Good,
Martha Carrier, sheriffed to the noose, inert dolls
suspended by an age’s filaments.
She knows none of this.
Her kind has been accused before the garden was prepared.
Her terrible loins state of being covering men’s black eyes,
her breasts, buttocks, marked by moles, the stain
Better that she give up her webbed spying, hobble pregnant
and bowed through the kitchen, maid to the domestic
priest. Cover her nakedness with autumn leaves, stir not
the serpent in the conjure pot.
Paint her fingers and toes with a veneer of acceptance,
wear the rituals of her sex, dress in subtleties like thin
pencil strokes erasing the witch within.
Demure eyes turned downward, a smile like smoke lifting
up all her ages, she sees the witches without.
When I was little I would pick up rocks,
imagine they were living things, warm
little puppies, kittens. No one to love them
I pocketed them like adoring birthday cards
never received from my mother. Took them home,
gave them warm soapy baths in the sink,
cut out bits of fabric, clothed them so they were safe,
made little towels and blankets and things,
tucked them in like little dolls.
Their stony faces smiled approval but I was
overwhelmed because there were too many rocks
in the world. I would not be able to love them all.
The rocks were my only friends.
They lived in little cardboard houses,
doors and windows cut by a steak knife.
Opened up my handmade Barbie dream house that I
filled with love. I caressed them, sang lullabies to
wish them good night. They were my children needing
protection, the terrene connection I sought.
I cared for them as a mother would her offspring.
No one noticed.
The jungle, the Caribbean, New Orleans—
heated scents, scalded souls, the woman’s
voodoo, the man’s slavery, her magic
changes him into
a being of lost eyes
Michelangelo flaking away marble
molding the form locked within
hands, fingers, locks of hair become
drive of ovum, sperm
blind in the hole
woman sister to Madame LaLaurie, Rahab,
Shamhat, tricks of the trade, love magic
adherent, skirt shackled mind, homunculus
burnt bone bits
of cave debris
for her table the feast
her moon’s monthly harvest
a gravity catching orbitold old story
Ralph Monday is an Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN., where he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing courses. This fall he had poems published in The New Plains Review, New Liberties Review, Fiction Week Literary Review, and is represented as the featured poet with 12 poems in the December issue of Poetry Repairs. His work has appeared in publications such as The Phoenix, Bitter Creek Review, Impressions, Kookamonga Square, Deep Waters, Jacket Magazine, The New Plains Review, New Liberties Review and Poetry Repairs.