Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Last Spell

The Last Spell

The sorceress said:
My blue eye comes from a peacock's pride,
two magpie plumes, one black, one white
are my cheekbones' span, one left, one right,
and the chilblained heart of a drunken man
beats out time for the madwoman's rhyme
that runs through my nodding head.

The hedgewitch said:
I'll work in the dark of a gone moon's quirk
with a sickle of poppy stem that I've curved
slicing dust from the wing of a moth with no sting
for a paste of bat's grease that paints shadows for skin,
nurse a mandrake root with blood, milk and soot, then dance
on one foot to the lord of hell til it smiles in my bed.

Yet none of these but this blackened art
can give back to me what died when I fell.
To make me again both young and well, my craft has no skill
except in my heart.

December 2019

posted for Kerry's final prompt at

Images: Crone, from the internet, author unknown, Fair Use
Zenobia, © Warrick Goble, Fair Use


  1. Poetry as only you can write it. Your second stanza is well, wow! I have reached often into my dark well to find words this year. Given the choice to let it rot where it sits or spill a bit of my dark root into poetry I choose the spill.

  2. Your craft has *great* skill...

    The incantation feel - rhyme and meter, trope and spell- drive this forward.

    None but this, indeed, can give us back what we lost.

  3. This is beyond powerful!!! I love especially; "I'll work in the dark of a gone moon's quirk with a sickle of poppy stem that I've curved." ❤️

  4. I'd forgotten how deep and rich your dark imagery can get. There are very few magics strong enough to bring back what is dead, but the heart makes a good guardian for those things that, with the right words, can feel alive again if just for a moment.

  5. Joy, you write in a class by yourself. This is a truly magnificent poem. I am in awe, and so damned grateful to be reading you again.

  6. Yowza! Chilblained heart... wow. I want back what we've lost

  7. Joy, your poetic voice has resounded for me over the years - so strong and knowing, both witch and seer. The second stanza is particularly appealing to me but the final line has undone me quite.
    Thank you.

  8. That opening stanza is amazing. It is exactly what poetry (and spells) should be. Then you close with a hard truth I understand well. Fine fine writing, dear BFF.

  9. I love this so much... the spells that have reminds me of the witches of Macbeth with the ingredients but really the final lament of how the powers cannot stop the progress of time. I have always enjoyed your poetry and hope to see you continue from time to time.

  10. Our powers are indeed both rapt and faint, potent and moot, and in the end matter only in the mortar of words ... This is cried with high arch authority -- carved magisterially in three forms of fashioning, old school mythic in the first stanza, witch-modernist in the second, an aging woman's in the third. What is left is nothing and all, which is about the right measure of all we ever had to work with and is remains to incant. You had such a vantage and power at Real Toads -- a cliff toward an abyss -- offering a dizzy thrill to so many of its challenges. Thanks for mandrake whiskey.

  11. When I read your poem aloud to my daughter, I bacame someone else. Witchy and dark (I loved being her for a few minutes.) Happy New Year.

  12. Wonderful stuff! I love the solitary nature of hedge-witchery ... and also the fact that the craft works most successfully in a context of love.

  13. Nothing (and no one) can replace what loss has taken away. There is no magic that strong. Except in the heart (and memory), there we can reclaim anything and everything (even is just for a short while).

    This one left me sighing...


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats