Jessica Traynor

Come Halloween and the days drawing in,
memory plants me in my childhood home,
hanging out under the pall of my mother’s
Rothman’s smoke as she chats on the phone.

I watch that fog make its oily nest

above her head, moving sinuous

as she whispers mysteries into the receiver:
Of course, she’s a real see-you-next-Tuesday...

Besides these incantations, these airings of grudges,
I’ve a head full of witches
and waking dreams where my body

hovers a foot from the ground.

In my head I’m wicked, wise, invisible,
but only one of these things is true.

And everyone knows there are two types
of witch—the siren, the crone—

but I believe in a third: the serious kind
who has her revenge in the end.
Decades later, in the dregs of the year,
my mother remembers the sad women

she’s known, the anger that broke
on their hearts in waves,
shattering bones, blackening lungs
and disrupting the humours

until all that was left was bile, bile, bile,

and a world that took on a November tint all year,
so it was All Soul’s every short, dark, day,
and I know I’ve finally found them,

coven bound by invisible lines,
curses all words unspoken;
the only real witches,

those women without any power.