Monday, April 25, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 24: Elizabeth Willis

I'm including both of the following poems by Elizabeth Willis because (1) I missed yesterday's deadline and (2) I think they need to be read together.


A witch can charm milk from an ax handle.

A witch bewitches a man's shoe.

A witch sleeps naked.

"Witch ointment" on the back will allow you to fly through the air.

A witch carries the four of clubs in her sleeve.

A witch may be sickened at the scent of roasting meat

A witch will never sink nor swim.

When crushed, a witch's bones will make a fine glue.

A witch will pretend not to be looking at her own image in a window.

A witch will gaze wistfully at the glitter of a clear night.

A witch may take the form of a cat in order to sneak into a good man's chamber.

A witch's breasts will be pointed rather than round, as discovered in the trials of the 1950s.

A powerful witch may cause a storm at sea.

With a glance, she will make rancid the fresh butter of her righteous neighbor.

Even our fastest dogs cannot catch a witch-hare.

A witch has been known to cry out while her husband places inside her the image of a child.

A witch may be burned for tying knots in a marriage bed.

A witch may produce no child for years at a time.

A witch may speak a foreign language to no one in particular.

She may appear to frown when she believes she is smiling.

If her husband dies unexpectedly, she may refuse to marry his brother.

A witch has been known to weep at the sight of her own child.

She may appear to be acting in a silent film whose placards are missing.

In Hollywood, the sky is made of tin.

A witch makes her world of air, then fire, then the planets. Of cardboard, then ink, then a compass.

A witch desires to walk rather than be carried or pushed in a cart.

When walking a witch will turn suddenly and pretend to look at something very small.

The happiness of an entire house may be ruined by witch hair touching a metal cross.

The devil does not speak to a witch, He only moves his tongue.

An executioner may find the body of a witch insensitive to an iron spike.

An unrepentant witch may be converted with a little lead in the eye.

Enchanting witchpowder may be hidden in a girl's hair.

When a witch is hungry, she can make a soup by stirring water with her hand.

I have heard of a poor woman changing herself into a pigeon.

At times a witch will seem to struggle against an unknown force stronger than herself.

She will know things she has not seen with her eyes. She will have opinions about distant cities.

A witch may cry out sharply at a the sight of a known criminal dying of thirst.

She finds it difficult to overcome the sadness of the last war.

A nightmare is witchwork.

The witch elm is sometimes referred to as "all heart." As in, "she was thrown into a common chest of witch elm."

When a witch desires something that is not hers, she will slip it into her glove.

An overwhelming power compels her to take something from a rich man's shelf.

I have personally known a nervous young woman who often walked in her sleep.

Isn't there something witchlike about a sleepwalker who wanders through the house with matches?

The skin of a real witch makes a delicate binding for a book of common prayer.

When all the witches in your town have been set on fire, their smoke will fill your mouth. It will teach you new words. It will tell you what you've done.


Sarah Wilds, Deliverance Hobbs, and Dorcas Hoar were witches.

Martha Corey, Dorothy Good, and Rebecca Nurse were convicted of consorting with devils.

Sarah Osborne did not go to church regularly; Sarah Good was seen begging for food.

Tituba was a slave.

Giles Correy was pressed to death in the summer of 1962.

Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, and Mary Parker were hanged on September 22nd.

A family in reduced circumstances may resort to witchcraft in order to procure food.

A family of witches will put off a bad smell like that of wild animals.

Bridget Bishop, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs, John Proctor, and John Willard were hardcore Salem gothic witches.

Kate, Leah, and Maggie Fox were professional upstate rapping witches.

Mary Baker Eddy was a witch.

Witchcraft can be contracted like a pox and appear in lesions on the skin.

The ability to understand the language of one's enemy is evidence of witchcraft.

George and Mary Oppen fled to Mexico to avoid being tries as witches.

Louis Zukofsky hid his witchcraft in the music of a long poem.

Charles Reznikoff and Lorine Niedecker lived largely incognito.

An accused witch is taken into a courtroom backward so as not to bewitch her accusers.

Eugene Debs was a witch.

Ronald Reagan was a cardinal in the army of the witchhunters.

Samuel Beckett and René Char lived for a time underground, as witches do.

Leadbelly was a witch.

Spencer Tracy and Paul Robeson were witches by association.

James Baldwin and Woody Guthrie were witchlovers.

Joe Hill was a stonecold singing witch organizer.

Simone Weil, Orson Welles, and Edward Dmytryk were witches.

John Wieners and Tallulah Bankhead consorted with witches.

Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, and Barbara Jordan were witches.

Un-American witches may appear to believe less in money than in other forms of circulation.

Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, and Dalton Trumbo were witches.

Alfred North Whitehead was a witch sympathizer.

Charles Olson worked for FDR.

Sappho worshiped with other witches in ancient witch temple.

Frank O'Hara conceived "Personism" as a defense of witchcraft.

Billie Holiday was a witch.

Billie Burke, Veronica Lake, and Elizabeth Montgomery were witches.

Robert Creeley voted for McGovern.

Nazimova was a witch, and Garbo was bewitching as a humorless Russian.

Hattie McDaniel, Madame Curie, and Mercedes McCambridge were witches.

Anne Hutchinson was a monstrous talking witch.

Arthur Miller was a witch.

Maria Tallchief danced bewitchingly.

Very few people were actually afraid of Virginia Woolf in spite of her witchcraft.

The supernatural powers of the aristocracy have occasionally mingled with those of a commoner.

Hilma af Klint, Hilda Doolittle, and Helen Adam were witches.

Teresa was first known as the Witch of Ávila.

Joan or Jeanne attempted to escape prosecution by leaping from a tower.

Agnes Martin, Agnés Varda, and Agnes Moorhead are witches.
When Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy spoke,
the power of their words could be felt in disparate locations at the same time.

Engine trouble at 20,000 feet may bring a witch back to earth.

Harvey Milk was shot right in City Hall while trying to reason with a witchhunter.

I have personally known witches whose voices seemed to rise out of a hole in the earth as if it were a mouth.

Hannah Weiner saw words - like the Apostle John - and if she is not a saint, she is a witch.

Both poems are from Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011).

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