We tell our children not to wander in the woods,
never to stop or enter the cottage with
the peppermint scent and gingerbread façade
for a naked witch is sleeping inside.
Beware the milk weeping from an axe handle outside,
the tingling inside that stretches from heart to toes
that neither sinks nor swims if tied with heavy stones,
the ointment on your back that makes you feel flight.
If you are sickened by the scent of roasting meat
kissing your nostrils, we tell them, do not enter there.
If she gazes at you and you see her reflection in the frosted panes,
hear her voice sweetly echo in the glittering fireflies of night, turn away.
Better to crush her bones to paste and use them to mason your new house
less you close your eyes and she be on top in your dream bed,
her pointed breasts caressing down, her black familiar nearby,
we tell them, never noticing the rancid butter on the neighbor’s sill.
If she smiles and you dream the image of a child inside her,
especially after barren decades of hope, many more watching her
tying knots at the end of your bed, muttering an unknown language,
do not ever let her in, we repeatedly tell them.
If she smiles and you see a frown, cast her out, we tell them.
If she marries you in heart and soul and never gets engaged,
If she weeps at the sight of every child in ambulation,
If she takes on the face of Norma Desmond, she is an evil thing.
If she lives in air, fire, ice and water, sees planets in the day;
Insists on walking when old and frail and fragile with age;
looks intently at every small thing, do not let her hair
touch your cross lest she curse you with an unhappy life.
Check your children’s hair lest there be witch powder there.
Beware their nightmares lest they be witch’s dreams.
They may be be-spelled if they struggle with things
greater than themselves, especially those you believe.
if they have contrary opinions, want to tour strange cities,
plea for mercy for the poor soul exiled on death row,
give a drink to a thirsty man, cry for the forever war,
they are surely bewitched and need to feel the switch.
Watch your children lest they slip the things they want
but can not afford into their gloves and pockets
for they are part of her infernal coven and it is time
to collect them together, find the matches and burn the wood.