Black Annis

Not a witch, but a woman, just like your mothers.
The world was too loud, too bright, with the stench

of muck and mutton. My senses turned inward
like wheel spokes. I crept to the cave for silence,

for safety. It was my ark, whale belly. In the dark,
my skin shone like a salamander, veins branching

beneath lids and wrists: the blue face was always a myth.
The oak, however, did stand sentry, roots curving

into a portal. It sieved the wind from my sanctuary
and spun the rain into lace. At midnight, I would climb

the boughs, comforted by the creek, the soft bellowing
of stags, and my reflection mooning the sky.

Later, village children threw rocks at my walls,
chanting unfamiliar names. I shrunk to cave-tail,

rubbing at my conker-heart hair with stubby nails.
They started hanging sage above their doors, building

their windows small. I became hag-seed, warning,
bedtime story. Their nightmares kept the world away.

I lived quiet years, then died moss-swaddled beneath a bat-
draped canopy: they were always dressed for mourning.

Returning myself to the earth, I fed flies and foxes,
left behind enough legend, enough terror,

that no one dares disturb my immortal bones.

Bex Hainsworth

Bex Hainsworth is a poet and teacher based in Leicester, UK. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The McNeese Review, Sonora Review, and Nimrod. Walrussey, her debut pamphlet of ecopoetry, is published by The Black Cat Poetry Press.

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