"Little Witches"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
May 22 2012 6:00 AM

"Little Witches"


Illustration Witches from Geiler.

Abbildung aus Geiler von Keisersberg.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Lauren Watel read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

There’s a witch in my hair
who hides my spectacles
and one in my neck
who hectors me

The witch in my left arm socket
signals changes in my direction

The witch in my ankle wears armor
and wields a sharpened pike
for daily reenactments
of the Battle of Leuctra
on the side of the Spartans

A collection agency
leaves ominous messages
alluding to bills past due
for the witch in my belly

The witch in my locked skullbox
gazes through mirrored casements
at wavering winds
warbler song
the breath of ghosts
grief’s gritted teeth

An endless sentence
of peine forte et dure
depresses the witch
in my chest

The witch in my right temple
knitted me a tiny carcinoma
out of crushed scarlet velvet

At the corner of Boundary and Main
the witch in my legs lags

The witch in my ears can hardly hear
the complaint of a leak
before fluids escape

What began as an earthworm
wallowing in reddish sludge
the witch in my palms
shaped into a conscience

There is no doubt that certain
witches can do marvelous things
with regard to male organs

according to Heinrich Kramer
15th-century inquisitor and author
of the Malleus Maleficarum
which explains why the witch
in my snatch is so musical

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site. Click here for an archive of discussions about poems with Robert Pinsky in "the Fray," Slate's reader forum.   

Lauren Watel received the 2012 Mississippi Review Prize in fiction. Her fiction, poetry, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Five Points, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, and The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust. She lives in Decatur, Ga.

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