Even now I think of your red featherless face, your unscarved neck as taunt as an axe sheath— picked clean as my uncaged spine. I watched you take the smaller birds under your wing, then smear your crown with warpaint to ward off the hyenas who pine for blood along littered highways. Your flock mediate between life and death. Your guild bridge the Old World and the New but for too long you’ve been maligned and judged unclean, tarred and feathered, banished to your wake. No song to sing, no call or defense— your voice a hiss of black wind carrying the scent of poppies. The world you cleanse passes us in bright, shiny cars as we build a temple on the side of the road. They call you a henchman, a stooped goblin, but we know you sacrificed a head of feathers to lift the sun beyond the mountaintops when it burned too close to earth. They do not know you are the queen of the throne. They do not know the volcanic acid in your gut can strip the paint from their bright, shiny cars. They do not know that somewhere a woman holds a black feather that guarantees the safe delivery of her child while you scavenge me to the sky, taking my tongue as your song.
The spells are getting worse especially at night— indigestion, difficulty swallowing a static swarm of reflux, all of which leads to bad dreams: last night she was a badger trapped in the crawlspace of its burrow. The animal council was there, too holding court as if at the devil’s pulpit, persecuting, badgering: if you followed the zoning laws this never would have happened, and then suddenly someone in the council, maybe the white-tailed deer, yells— smoke it out, smoke it out and then someone else— burn, burn, burn and when the witch awakes to a day as flushed as a rosy-cheeked oven, she knows she should see the family doctor about her heart.
Fish Out of Water
Will I be stuffed with cosmos and carpet roses like a straw man, my hours anchored to the unsung eye of Sunday painters? Will I be cast-off and scuttled, my ribs sifted by divers in search of souvenirs? Propped on wooden stilts in the hollow of the salt marsh, I am a fish out of water. The green tidal grass bends like waves against the bow. The squall of blistering paint started below the waterline, years ago it spread like a ditch of cancer. My old friends stopped coming by. Saltmarsh sparrows flit from the cow licks tufting the holes in my hull. Everywhere: swaths of salt and rust, barnacle colonies. Memories stopped coming by, too. Did I fill the harbor to receive the Blessing of the Fleet before a run to Georges Bank? Did I lay traps in the cold waters off Vinalhaven? When the wind blows I rock in my wooden chair, watching the light and shadow wind along creeks and channels. Soon I will see the settlers harvesting salt marsh hay, their scythes swinging in the late summer sun— haystacks piled like burial mounds across the tide.
The Truffle Hunter’s Complaint
Heart-shaped, my nose, I hold it aloft like a scepter before settling down to business at the perfume organ. I bury myself, my trowel as smooth as polished bones, in a scent map of soil and fossil, springtails, glacial stones pestled in the earth’s fungal spleen. I bury myself beneath a hazelnut tree the earthen-flax swabbing my snout with a hint of rain and autumn chill, a scent like love geosmin but there is nothing here but dark wood, dark water, and a cluster of wood blewits holding their breath. I root the beech wood, quarrying layers of earth and time, because I alone divine the secrecy of the forest. I am the sacred pig. The White Sow. The mystery of Demeter’s cult. Down, down I go, burying and unburying myself until at last I find the note a musky black diamond coiled like a ram’s horn around an unforgiving root. And I should knock him to the forest floor with his bucket of swill for bringing the hounds, the way they poach and bracket the ground too loyal, too eager to show their craft. But unable to read the trees. Still, there are two of them and only one of me. And I am not man’s best friend. But who is to blame for this, I ask? I am no slovenly earth butcher. It’s you who dragged me to distant lands, fattened me, penned me and muddied my name.
A Witch Takes Cure in the Waters of France
I’m nursed on mud harvested from the clay beds of Abrest and soaked in the springs of Vichy until blue algae is like a cradle in the golden bough. The days are marked by rituals— mineral water, steam, sugar cubes wrapped in oiled paper, and the moon, pink as a braided onion draped over the handlebars of a bicycle, shapes the movement of animals. The night stalkers ambush. The scorpion turns blue. I show up for breakfast in my robe and shower shoes, read the regional papers eat a breakfast of root vegetables. According to Napoleon, carrots are the obligatory vegetable of the sick. I learned this from Germaine, the water girl, in 1906. She ladled prescribed beverages from a wicker holder, and like a suicide filled her pockets with stones to keep count of how many tonics the curistes consumed. These days it is self-serve terroir. There are vending machines that sell plastic cups in the Hall des Sources where we gather like school children at a soda parlor apothecary to sip from the Earth’s cauldron, a healing hell-broth simmering under the flame of Hecate’s torch.
Damon Hubbs lives in a small town in Massachusetts. He graduated with a BA in World Literature from Bradford College. When not writing, Damon can be found growing microgreens, divining the flight pattern of birds, and ambling the forests and beaches of New England. His work is forthcoming in Book of Matches, Young Ravens Literary Review and Eunoia Review.