L.M. SCHMIDT

The Witches of Blackwood House

 

We leave basketed eggs and bread and roast chicken as porch offerings

And once Billy Boy found six blue glass marbles buried in their woods,

Like some pagan offering to a great and forgotten child god,

A ringleted, broken baby doll whose eyes will never fully shut,

Woven into the thin and trembling ends of oak roots unearthed by the blunt toe of

          Billy’s scuffed Buster Browns.

 

The few charred remnants of respectability remaining

after the rest whirled away to crispness in columns of smoke.

The last ghosts of a long ago-killed blaze, corpses of mother’s broken, ashen porcelain

          in the caskets formed by rotted Italian wood stairs,

Exposed by some broken and spluttering spell of protection,

Those dead-language recipes, torn book pages soaked in stream-mud and rosemary.

The blackberry bramble sprinkled with sugar sweet for our spiders and rats,

And smug great-great-grandmother’s jewel-toned preserves,

Glowing and blighted under cellar dust.

 

Sister bakes the cherry pie for the sabbath offering,

          boiled and perfumed in spongy marrow,

Uncle churns the milk and shines the blades,

And I leave out small dishes of honey and pudding and cream,

Tucked neat into the oak roots,

Forbidden sweets to lure charming boys.

 

Sometimes I imagine the puckered pop of the blade-tip puncturing an eyeball,

And what it would be like to spread the leaking jelly on a salted and dimpled pie-base

          in our iron pan,

thin and slippery and shivering,

Crack a cosseted stomach open like a crusty loaf of bread,

And this forgotten child god would laugh with delight,

At the perfect golden kernels of soft, silky fat around the torso,

Bind it with the sinew, and butter it sweet and unctuous across his bones,

Bury the crusts under the oak tree,

And leave the crumbs and shorn ringlets in the chicken-baskets on the porch.

-An ode to Shirley Jackson at a time of most peculiar isolation

Palingenesis

 

In winter’s latent hours, the townswomen run into the forest in droves                         thickened

yellow foot calluses having grown soft in woolen midwinter socks newly stabbed with

pine needles and the harsh crumpled remnants of last summer’s lost cones                         They

have done this every year for as long as I can remember and

they have keened and prayed for the returning sting             Rubicund with the shock of Eastertide

moisture and the smack of flesh against some sort of long-forgotten Cartesian Dualism

            All we have left now is the thinking of the body, as the women hunt for the bucks

to cut clean             an esoteric Orphic ritual, enacted with loving brutality             in the

melted, grey slush-piles of a since-forgotten blizzard.

 

Gently pulling back the pelt from the epithelium, the shedding eiderdown rubs against

those ruddy spongy hands that spent the winter months braiding soft, mouth-dampened

yarn in waiting for this moment             Splicing free the supple, fragrant liver, a soft

and dainty spleen of oil-slick dark in the rising sun             voluptuous lungs sliding

into the air with curves that demand touch, stroking the shivering, new-dead flesh with

reverence.

 

As the women bleed the buck dry and wrap the shivering goose-bumped limbs in the

scratchy-stiff pelt, still stinking of blood and bowels and the last rush of adrenaline of a

dying forest Czar             Now remembered only by a haphazard gravestone made of

his own shattered, velvet-roughed rack, and a rushing Platonian soul-wind ruffling the

remnants of marrow and intestines             And they laugh in the still-frosted air,

clad solely in peelings and rinds and scarred hulls             Gory and raw and sleepy,

we slumber in a pile of slipper limbs and cartilage and pelts, a metempsychosis of soft

snoring bodies and night-laughter             Spring arrives with the sunrise, streaked

dainty and corpulent in the air                         as the herd rouses at the dawn.

L. M. Schmidt (she/her) is an Ottawa-based emerging writer. Her poetry explores expressions of debility, gender, and transhumanism through her own positionality as a queer and disabled woman. She has a Masters Degree in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge (Chevening Scholar & Cambridge Trust Scholar). Her most recent published poem will be in the Fall 2020 issues of Room. She is currently an editor for Pussy Magic, and Ink and Bone Press, and previously edited for NōD magazine. She has two beautiful sons, who are cats. Instagram: @lmschmidt42 // Twitter: @lmschmidt42 

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