She says don’t you see the little nooses like party bunting? She says don’t you see the red velvet cake like so much blood?
The fire is going. Glowing blue. That’s the hottest, you know. Of course, you know, you have experience with this kind of thing. The charring of flesh, the singeing of hair.
The sky is just a tarp. Do you see any stars? Rip it back, just rip it back. Expose the sky. All those stars, they’re just keeping an eye on us, she says. They’re just keeping the I on us. Me, she says. They’re always just keeping an eye on me. Bring me my cleaning things, my meaning things. Tell me what to do. You’re so good at it.
I am soft round the middle, see? She touches her belly where a baby might’ve been formed. Where a baby had been formed. She touches her belly and jiggles it, flesh oozing through her fingertips. This skin is not mine. This is not my body bag. You told me it is not mine.
You can’t see? You can’t tell?
Come, look closer. See these lines? Trace them. These roads are forbidden to me. You told me they are forbidden. You told me to choose. Choice, she says, and cackles like lightning.
Witch, she says. Maybe. Or maybe I am just a mother, here with my broom. Sweeping up after it all. Cleaning the mess. If I carry this domestic implement will that make it true? For you, will that make it true.
Maybe I am just unfamiliar. Maybe we are sick of being your familiars.
Maybe I am just a woman with little nooses about her head and you, you are the one we should be afraid of.

13 Comments

  1. Trent

    Hi Jennifer –
    Right out of the gate, there’s some eerie. Nooses like party banners. Haven’t ever heard a phrase like that, but
    it’s – effective.

    I also dig the “sick of being your familiars” line – makes me think of a kind of revolt by them, against some force that’s ill-using them.
    Or at least, a not so subtle warning.

  2. Aimee Parkison

    Jennifer,

    This piece reminds me of one of my favorite poets of all time, Anne Sexton, who also wrote feminist pieces with such amazing rhythms and wrote about witches in “Her Kind,” among my favorite poems. https://poets.org/poem/her-kind

    Your writing is magical. I love these lines: “The sky is just a tarp. Do you see any stars? Rip it back, just rip it back. Expose the sky. All those stars, they’re just keeping an eye on us, she says. They’re just keeping the I on us. Me, she says.” Also, the reference to motherhood are powerful and full of tension, especially juxtaposed with the word “witch.”

    I love the voice and character in this piece, the interplay between the you and the I, the bold voice and how it flows, retaking that word “witch” and turning it to show the history of violence against women in a world where the mythology of the witch taught people to be afraid of women, when women were the ones being threatened by that word and its connotation.

    The references to nooses are powerful. I like the way the rhythms, the way the piece echoes and circles back, beginning to end. You should certain send this out right away to journals. I’m thinking Dark Matter, X-RAY, Smokelong, Fairytale Review.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing work!

    Xoxo, Aimee

  3. Meg Tuite

    Hi Jennifer,
    “She says don’t you see the little nooses like party bunting?” Love how this moves from 3rd to 2nd to 1st singuar/plural. “Witch, she says. Maybe. Or maybe I am just a mother, here with my broom. Sweeping up after it all. Cleaning the mess. If I carry this domestic implement will that make it true? For you, will that make it true.” This whole piece brings up some witchy domestic abuse. It’s powerful and creeps out the reader who becomes the kid, the audience to this sorcery of HELL! LOVE!

  4. Sara Comito

    Hi Jennifer, this resonates for me very much, the intimate domesticity balanced on a hint of societal expectations and the threat of persecution for fulfilling those expectations. This line especially, “Choice, she says, and cackles like lightning.” I also dig the description of the loose skin where a baby grew. And the suggestion of body dysmorphia, a relic of women claiming their power (magic) and then being judged for the changes it wreaks on us. That’s what I get out of it, anyway! True and timely.

  5. AJ Miller

    Jennifer, there’s something about this piece that gives me a chill up my spine. I love that last line where the I points to the You and states maybe “you are the one we should be afraid of.” I love the split personality feel that line has. But really, there are so many great memorable lines. I especially loved “The sky is just a tarp.” Wow. That made me want to get lost in that thought for a moment. I see this as a mother struggling with her identity, disappointed in her life for different reasons. I love the voice and tone of this piece. Really great job.

  6. Kathryn Kulpa

    I love the sounds of the language here, all the wordplay (“keeping the I on us”) and rhymes (echoes of spells) and repetition (again reminiscent of spells). I like that “comma” is written out, and while I appreciate the alliteration of “Woman Comma Witch,” the current title with ‘mother’ also works. They are like the opposing roles of womanhood, the socially approved mother and the transgressive witch, and they’re both in one woman, because of course they are. The broom is just a domestic implement.

    But there’s also the pressure to choose one, and the danger of noose and fire. I wasn’t always sure if the “you” being addressed is the daughter or the reader, but I feel like this story has enough negative space that there’s room for both interpretations.

  7. Lucy Logsdon

    This piece has so much going for it; I love the voice of the narrator and the way she keeps questioning things. I felt like the energy of this work really picked up around the part where she says maybe she is just a woman with a domestic implement, ie the broom. This sudden de-spooking of the spook was really interesting to me, and I wondered if you could start playing with this notion earlier in the piece. Give us right from the beginning these wonderful moments of it is this, no wait, it is just this. Very, very interesting.

  8. David O'Connor

    Jennifer, so much powerful flow here, love how it swings from moment to moment, grounded and powerful, well done!

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