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
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
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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