The Witch-Mother’s Dress

My mother gathered her dress like a memory
Tattered and withered with age
Laid it’s caress in a pattern of symmetry
Lit up her censor with sage
Fear bothered at her like falling pinecones

She took her scissors to sever the fine lace nape
Eyes polished riverbed stones
Yes, by this dress would her firstborn escape
To the far north where every witch goes
When Salemites come sweeping another town

By the strange firelight, flurries alighted
To no avail, they kissed the gown
Tracing the rubies she sewed alongside of it
They pulled the thin fabric down
Cotton swayed about them like butterflies

So was the garment impressed by her vibrancy
Filled with the light of her eyes
Lovely the dress, the violence of it’s primacy
Born as a token of flight
She held it’s shining form to the window

Soft little cries drew her mind from the planned escape
She let the swaying cloth go
Her fingers spidered over the bone crib she’d made
Her child’s eyes wide and aglow
I cooed and babbled at her solemn frown

She took me up from the crib with a heavy sigh
Smiled at my murmuring sounds
Sang lullabies in the still autumn silence
To drown out the noise of the crowd
As the mob descended on her hollow

Animals quiet, the forest forewarning her
My little arm brushed her throat
My mother nodded, the sounds of the morning birds
Gone up in torchlight and smoke
She crossed the little room to the garment

She laid her child on the cloth and drew it about
Wrapping me up in her scent
Wide-eyed and mouth gaping, how close the crowd was now
Singing their hymn as they went
My mother opened the window to dawn

She took a last look as the little face of me
Curled when the curtains were drawn
Quivering lip, the witch took a moment to breathe
Ears crucified by their song
She let me go as the dress swayed and swelled

Framed by the sun, I remember my floating on
Carried by my mother’s spell
Up in the clouds with their furrows and trailings long
Wrapped in the sage’s sweet smell
Passing to the north’s dark and open arms

She watched me float on the breeze she’d arranged for me
Fingers caressing her charms
Now the crowd traipsed like a storm in the willow trees
Brimming with hatred and harm
At the front of them, a weeping handmaid

Some of the townsfolk put force to the doorknob
They screamed o’er the din the crowd made
“Come ye, and look on this widow, witch! Hear her cries
For you have stolen her babe”
The door hinges groaned and gave to their weight

Backed to the back wall, my mother grinned viciously
Tasting the spice of their hate
As they pulled her to the light, she sang blissfully
“I’m afraid you’re all too late!”
The handmaid that birthed me choked on her cry

Then was my mother’s neck looped by a heavy rope
She screamed with mirth as she died
They say she lasted an hour before she croaked
Smiling until her last sigh
And she twitched for days after she was gone

Ah, but the witch will not rot in her earthen tomb
For she lives on in her spawn
Though I was born of the handmaiden’s womb
In truth, it’s the witch who lives on
I drown in fever to finish her work

Author’s Note- This poem constitutes yet another less-than satisfactory attempt to create a good story through a highly structured poem form with a dense rhyme scheme and strict adherence to syllable count per line. I’m posting it because a) it has a few lines I really like and I think the story is pretty interesting, and b), so I can look back and see how my narrative poetry progressed. I’ve had more luck recently with freeverse, so I’ll get back to posting some of that soon. 🙂

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