I. Once there was a girl who walked on all fours –
feet and hands. The only time she was allowed to stand
on just two legs was when she was carrying
great bundles of twigs and thatch and steel rods two miles long.
Luckily and unluckily for her, she often had such burdens to carry.
The girl was so often carrying because she was in the care of witches
who stayed in bed all day. So great was each witch’s laziness,
witch fingernails grew from one side of the house to another, pierced
walls and speared flying birds. Some nails even grew back
into the house and poked holes in the headboard of the witches’ bed.
Witch hair tangled over all doorways, tables, chairs, washbasins,
drains. It clogged the chimney with knots and nests and trees.
Witch teeth spiked up through the ceiling and down
into the floorboards, into the earth and the girl would rethatch the roof
on a ladder, wary of the sharp yellow teeth that sometimes rushed
toward her eyes. In this way, the girl was trapped,
enslaved and forsaken.
II. Once a girl was resourceful.
Finding herself in the company of witches, whom she did not
endeavor to know, the girl decided to play a trick.
She encouraged the witches to relax, to let their hair and nails and teeth
grow long for beauty’s sake. She convinced the witches and the three
or five or four witches, they kept changing and splitting and joining so
the girl was never sure how many there were, all stayed in bed
and let their hair and nails and teeth grow long
until they were quite beautiful but also quite stuck
in their loveliness. The girl waited until each gaze was blocked by her own
mountain of hair and claw and barb. When all witch eyes were shielded, she left,
and the witches did not know the direction she fled.
In this way, the girl was saved.
III. Once a girl was apprenticed to a number of witches,
though she did not want to be. In revenge, the girl devised a plan
to better her employers. She robbed the witches of their customers
by saying they forced her to work on all fours. She tied a dog
to the door and passersby thought it was the girl
hunched over. The girl made the dog
bring sticks and thatching and steel rods to build a cage
around the witches. To keep them still, the girl
promised to brush their hair, clip their nails and file their teeth.
Content, trusting, the witches dropped into a deep sleep.
When they awoke, they found the girl had not done her duties.
Each witch was trapped
in the overgrowth of herself and others.
In this way, the girl conquered and enslaved the witches.
Laurel Radzieski‘s debut poetry book, Red Mother, is forthcoming from NYQ Books in 2018. She earned her MFA at Goddard College and she is a Poetry Editor for Clockhouse. Laurel’s poetry has been featured on the Farm/Art DTour in La Rue, Wisconsin, as well as in Down the Dog Hole: 11 Poets on Northeast Pennsylvania, Really System, inkscrawl and other publications. She spends her days on nonprofit endeavors.
What is Laurel’s favorite world-changing invention or idea, and why? “Definitely the postage stamp. It got the ball rolling.”
Art — Aleksandra Apocalisse was born in the USSR, from which her family fled when she was only 6 years old. She spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in Brooklyn, New York until she moved to Portland, Oregon in 2015. There, she is living the dream; spending the days outside with my dog, playing in the dirt, hanging out with plants, and expressing her dreams and innermost musings through art. She also loves animals, reading, learning about nature, getting lost in music, and traveling to tropical jungles.