Today we are having the talk
We go to the woods
and stand under the tree
with the leaves that make me think
of brimstone butterflies, all restless green gold for go –
or scuffed and crushed into mud.
You tell me again
about things you have done to witches
about the things they have done to you
and I tell you the story
that ends with a burning, about how I stood in a crowd
and let ash lick my skin, tender as snow, as I watched
a woman disintegrate
how not one of us said a word.
It’s been raining
and water falls through holly and webbed grey air
on to my head, your chest, our guilty arms.
We shiver, huddle close. We both know
that soon these woods will be white, too quiet
for excuses or amends.
We are ready now
for a cold spell, for a winter death.
our own witch listens in, has been listening in for years,
her long wet ears curled round lungwort and crowded parchment
her fingers puffy and soft-gilled, primed
to curse us, smother us, tear off our limbs –
(heart’s red peeled bark)
itching to let us both live.
Did that glass just move? My trusting fingers
patch you through
as you tease, trick, treat
me to an ‘s’
an endless, answerless ‘y’. I’ve fallen
through so many screens, sometimes suspect
I’ve loved only screens, the words
appearing like the answers to a spell:
crafted and double-edged, not always
what I had in heart. One summer
I danced all night, strained my arms
to the high country window, desperate
for a single bar, for the start of our song
but of course
your part was noteless. Like most ghosts
you have your own times:
your clouded Piccadilly Line mornings
your sleeping Tuesday afternoons
your trees like wet veins
in the six pm lamplight.
not of you, but of a world without you:
your half-words haunt me.
I need to keep checking you exist.
Becki Hawkes lives and works in London, and has had poems published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Shore, Rust + Moth, Brittle Star, Pulp Poets Press, Little Stone Journal, Lunate Fiction, Wrongdoing Magazine and Perhappened. Her Twitter is @BeckiH_678.
photo by Faye Cornish (via unsplash)