Joy R.

A Mahogany Wood

you are sitting in your home
when you hear them coming for you 
footsteps crunching on gravel 
not quite loud enough to mask their groveling voices
calling for your calcine
the contortion of your body under boulders
a noose around your neck
"burn the witch"
these mortal men howl the command into the cold night air
as if an excuse is needed to light a fire
as if fire demands blood rather than oxygen 
as if this is the only way to bring warmth 
into their fingertips
they believe that warmth demands a sacrifice
you can tell that they are at the door
not because of the banging of fists and pitchforks against mahogany
but because you can almost smell your own charred flesh
you are shaken to your roots
and you gasp a spell into the midnight air
as if it was your last dying breath
you would be the last to suspend from branches
to decorate a mahogany wood

the courtroom smells like printer ink and convictions
drunkards staggering their way into their own acquittals because they are white
and their pockets are deep and lined with green
like the crumbled leaves of a poultice that burned with your ancestors 
the courtroom is cold
the warmth that once blazed with the passion of a distant soul
has now left 
you are tired
a lethargy that starts from the pit of your stomach 
takes over your body like possession
you wonder when this will finally be over
when you can go  home 
when you can forget this man's face and the ice of his fingertips
where can you go without eyes screaming 
liar
or slut
or sad, pitiful, little thing
the defense attorney is a woman 
she is blood 
and bone
and flesh 
and woman
she lifts her arm to show the court your underwear 
and calls it consent
the jury is made up of 8 men and 4 women
and a rapist walks away free
your name is not in any newspapers
This is the moment.
you decided to break the protection cast around you
tree now rafters
branch now ceiling fan 
your smile now a ghost roaming a mahogany wood

to men 
knives to the heart or throat or wrists 
may look like mutilation
but to us they are blood magic
like cooking up a spell to snap our own necks
you see, all women are witches
when everything is taken from us 
we go back to our roots
back to the blood 
maybe if we could purify ourselves now
the men and dogs won't maul us later
do not be noticeable
do not fight back
do not wear a thong or a man will drag you down an alley
and walk home wearing your sense of safety and an acquittal
we've been draining our magic for centuries
draining our magic on mortal men and their whims
it does not matter what they believe is theirs for the taking
swear to your ancestors 
the witches 
that let their blood be spilled and bodies be broken
so that mortals would have no power over you
swear to them that you will never
sacrifice magic
for something that could
never truly be taken away 

there is a witch's soul inside of you 
so why do you insist on paying this price of blood?  

Jason Carney