wombmagic—Vera Hadzic

content warnings: mentions of miscarriage & infertility, descriptions of death and injury, allusions to abortion

You can find the school for wombmagic if you look hard enough—
buried in groves of white-skinned trees with red berries
door rattling behind a net of thorns
roof bending under a promiscuous wind
All day long, you hear crows:
at noon, at night, voices deepened with shadow and snow
the mushrooms so old you can count the years in their faces

They teach you all sorts of things, at the school for wombmagic
spells, potions, secret chants to weave into stars, breathe into lakes
they give you textbooks with spidersilk pages, lectures under candlelight;
And then, the lesson everyone’s waiting for—
where they teach you to enchant the uterus
to bind flesh and blood and pelvic cradle
dig through cartilage, braid thoughts through fallopian tubes

A uterus, they say at the school for wombmagic, 
is a greenhouse—or a garden
imagine, they tell you, the walls of blood and tissue
are rich as black, wet soil
the ovaries hang from green vines, tremble
with golden fruit
a living cave, long white roots twine around the bones
and green leaves finger at the placenta
the cervix inhales pebbles of sunlight and CO2
and breathes out silvery oxygen
and flowers twisted of air and water and earth

At the school for wombmagic, they show you all the things you can do
when a uterus is a greenhouse, or a garden
You can make it rot and collapse on itself, last
buds of life peeling from its walls
You can turn it dry and barren, wasteland of
empty promises
Or you can fill it with green, swell and grow until it 
might split from colour, shivering vibrancy

You see students wandering halls, turning their faces up to streaked skies
hands on bellies, fingers lengthening over abdomens
empty gardens, or worms eating at the sunlight
which falls from greenhouse roofs
some whose gardens bulge with lumps of darkness
or with unwanted embryos
Sometimes, the magic goes wrong—
sometimes, you’ll be the one to find the students who made mistakes,
strung from trees with shrivelled umbilical cords like hoary twine
skin patterned with gooseflesh, frozen blood
Often you’ll find them in the bathroom
shoulders caving to bone
stomachs hyperinflated with viscous fluids
when punctured, they ooze out, hot and thicker than light
Maybe they added too much holly, or mandrake
maybe they left the cauldron too long 
over the fire
Sometimes, they die in bedrooms
embalmed in smoke from candles that went out
past midnight
on the floor, snake thin, ropelike ghost runes 
copied from a book
Maybe they used too much blood
said the wrong words
dug too deep

Under elastic birch and gleaming red berries,
the school for wombmagic swells with the murmurs 
of people with gardens, or greenhouses
They have nowhere else to go, so you watch them sow their souls
into the stars until they tear 
in two

Under crow calls, while the door leans into the wind,
they teach wombmagic and pluck all those shining lights
hide them away in glass jars even as they say
a uterus is a garden, or a greenhouse
it can be tilled and it can be sowed
it can be ploughed and it can be harvested
when it’s infected, it needs to be sprayed with pesticides
and if it grows too fast, it needs to be

You can find the school for wombmagic if you look hard enough—
and if you do find it, red with berries, blood, sinking into snow,
Maybe you will say what I never had courage to
that a uterus is no garden, and not a greenhouse
not to be hidden away, cursed and worshipped
under the cries of crows and dead trees
that it’s just another chamber of tissue
that it belongs to the people who carry it
and to no one else

previously published in Hecate Magazine

Vera Hadzic (she/her) is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario, currently studying English and history at the University of Ottawa. Recently, her work has appeared in flo., Minola Review, Idle Ink, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @HadzicVera or through her website, www.verahadzic.com.

photo by Natalie (via pexels)