THE CHRISTIAN WITCH
THE CHRISTIAN WITCH
By Bob Bradley
At the end,
Grandmother sat in the too-close parlor,
a hot house baking the odd, rare visitor.
Even the wrinkled photos winced in their frames,
spoiled and dingy behind the glass.
Nothing escaped the creep that gathered round her:
the wither of death, death the mother.
Black widow, one son-in-law spat out.
She killed her own. For true,
the tally ran two dead, at last count,
by their own hands. And two more
we'd like as not know as lush, so much each
would rather drink than breathe.
See her venom-stiffened finger pointing:
A copperhead caught her out once
while she chopped cotton.
Are you drunk--Wick!!
Her voice in the empty house evinced
the sound of shoe against bare shin,
and sharply struck.
Behind those dense-lenses,
her eyes roamed the peeling walls.
She picked at scabs and wheezed
on the naugahyde couch,
while light and shadow
mesmerized her last afternoons.
As for pity, I've seen
the remaining two of her issue
-- survivors, if you'd want to call them that-
break down drunk
and heave big-bellied sobs
of sentiment they sagged against,
overcome. The juice of choice
untied the knotted grief
of each one and,
like a mean little fist,
opened to loose a pale dry moth.
Their tears did flow.
To weep so, I guess, was sweet for them.
As for me, I remember the harpy bitch
who ordered that "nigger woman,"
and loud enough for all ears,
to take the drawers of photos,
letters, and post cards out to the front yard
and set them on fire.
As if the past and its memory
could be burned at the stake.
They're the worst, those Christian witches:
For the Christ himself,
hands and footprints bloodied,
they would not trouble themselves
a cup of vinegar.
She had her way.
The pile burned down to ash. Cinders.
Rendered smoke and shadows of smoke.
A ten-foot circle of charred grass.
But I remember her reign, her snake-bit digit shaking
a crooked shadow over a dead child's face.
As for the hold of her ghost, the terror
of her specter, I call her out if she takes issue
with any or all I utter.
She knows where to find me.
We'll have it out in the back yard
she burned--toe to toe--me
and that bewhiskered rictus.
I'll bring my wits--what's left of them.
My second? This birth I never asked for.
Let her come and bring her worst.
I'll be waiting on the charred grass.
Standing barefoot in memory's ashes.
Surrounded by that black circle of scorched earth.
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