Burn, Burn a Witch

john william waterhouse the magic circle 1886

Once, I was ordinary–
irrefutable, beautifully smug,
but I would rather be horizontal.
The horizons ring me like faggots.
In the marketplace, they are piling the dry sticks.
I shall never get out of this– there are two
of me now– the abstracts hover like dull angels.

Widow. The word consumes itself–
On this bald hill, the new year hones its edge.
I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus.
The month of flowering’s finished, the fruit’s in.
This was the land’s end: the last fingers–
Knuckled and rheumatic– first frost and I
walk among the rose-fruit, the marble toes.

They are the last romantics, these candles–
the white light is artificial, and hygienic as heaven.
Touch it– it won’t shrink like an eyeball.
Empty, I echo to the least footfall!

I can stay awake all night, if need be.
The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper.
This is a dark house, very big–
two girls there are– within the house.
It is ten years, now, since we rowed to Children’s Island.
Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.


A found poem ‘cento’ composed and rearranged from the first lines of the following poems in Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water: ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘Finisterre,’ ‘Parliament Hill Fields,’ ‘Heavy Women,’ ‘Insomniac,’ ‘I Am Vertical,’ ‘The Babysitters,’ ‘In Plaster,’ ‘Private Ground,’ ‘Widow,’ ‘Candles,’ ‘Magi,’ ‘Small Hours,’ ‘The Surgeon at 2 A.M.,’ ‘Zoo Keeper’s Wife,’ ‘Last Words,’ ‘Two Sisters of Persephone,’ ‘Who,’ ‘Dark House,’ ‘Maenad,’ ‘Witch Burning,’ ‘A Life,’ and ‘Crossing the Water.’

First appeared in the Found Poetry Review’s “PoMoSco,” a collective April 2015 National Poetry Month challenge.

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