Obituary—Helena Steel

An old man hiding from the morbid heat, 
sits in a dusty bar on the edge of town,
orders a double bourbon, swats away 
a fly, reads out loud from the newspaper.

The Changeling whose hunt and capture we reported on last fall, tonight has died of heartbreak in the Louisiana Correctional Unit for Women.

Born in the forests of Killarney National Park, Ireland, The Changeling (whose given name she takes to her grave) made her way to the U.S. in search of the American dream. She eluded capture for fifty long years, taking control of countless teens across the states. ‘My son was possessed from the age of fourteen to twenty-one,’ said one mother. ‘My daughter turned from a sweet loving child into a vile witch overnight,’ said another. On the witness stand during trial The Changeling told the jury, ‘Parents should be queueing up for my help.  I possess their teens, yes… but think what monsters they would be without me. Mine is an act of compassion.’

Believing that few would mourn her passing, a small funeral had been planned in the unit’s chapel. However, a book of condolences for the inmates tells another story, as do the letters that have been flooding in from round the world

The old man, swigs his drink 
pushes the paper towards the barman, taps it.
The barman reads, is no longer in the dusty bar 
but on a lit stage in Manhattan. For that is his dream. 


I climbed Old Oak 
found you there crying
ebony tears. You said you were 
universally misunderstood,
you were only trying to do good.
Remember how we watched the sun
set over frosted fields and talked of escaping to 
more temperate lands? I wish I’d told you then: 
with you under the light of the ice moon, I felt warm.

Rory R (postmark Kerry, Ireland)

All I ask 

Please bury her in a child’s coffin.
To cremate her would be to fuel
the practice of burning witches.
A coffin for her dignity. Please.

Angelica (from the book of condolences) 


After the storm cooled 
the fire in the air 
and the village
slept and dream
once more, I lay awake 
in tangled sheets
listening for the beat 
of your raven wings 
the stomach cramps
my darkening mood 
warned me you were near
I felt your presence before 
your searching eyes were
at the window
the hushed notes 
of your song
were the waves on the sea 
they pulled me to you 
and pushed me away
pulled me
pushed me away. 
Let me in you said
as I did I felt fear 
and unexplained shame.

Anonymous (Delivered by hand)

The barman closes the paper. 
A single tear 
the old man’s cheek.

Helena Steel is an Anglo-Italian writer from North London. She is the founder of The Story Room where she runs creative writing workshops and book clubs for children. She loves her job! When she is not working with words, she plays with them and dreams about them. Her poetry has been published in Between the Lines, South Bank PoetryPoetry for Good and Enfield Poets Anthology.

photo by Pixabay (via pexels)