‘Of Weeds and Witches’, Shelly Jones

Illustration © 2021 Jason Baltazar

 [ A bony hand, © 2021 Jason Baltazar ] Fireweed to burn away
his memory, the witch tells me,
plucking a dried stalk from the rafter.
Milkweed to nurture my broken
heart, but as she glances
down past my tender breasts
to my belly, we both know it is not
my heart that is broken.

She places the creeping myrtle
on the floorboards, tells me to stomp.

“To rend the memories from you for good.”

I hesitate and she notices,
but does not comment.
She does not deal in guilt
or sermons, only in potions and coin,
or whatever else girls have of value.

Tucked in a vase on her table, snips of hair,
flaxen and coarse, like my shorn locks.
Rows of jars, green-blue glass obscuring
contents: eyes or chestnuts? Fingernails or eggshells?
I rub my thumb over my fingers,
the nails jagged, bitten or cut?
Trimmed with a dull knife on the table,
a curl of something still stuck in its serrated teeth.

I stomp twice on the pale-blue pinwheels,
bend to pick up the oily crushed leaves, but a bony hand
swipes them from my grasp. It is only then
I notice the dusty footprint, a twin
to the one below my boot.

Has another girl been here, bartering
with the witch, trading her teeth,
her hair, her jar of mother dough for assistance?

Or is it only me, always me, returning again?

She thrusts a potion toward me, a dare
more than an offering and I remember this:
the blur of her arm, a tattered sleeve, a chipped cup
that feels familiar on my lower lip like a lost lover.

I sip and wonder when we will meet again.

© 2021 Shelly Jones

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