A School For The Magical Arts
What disappeared with her was that this locust,
the fifteenth from the rusted scarlet cattle gates
on Bonita Serra Road, entrance to the Collins’ farm,
was the best place on the property to hang up
bird and squirrel feeders. Next to the greeny
fungused fence posts were telephone wires
and escape routes from the switchbacked curvy road;
other branches hung across the curves, too –
byways against the plod of F250s. She was a woman
who still ate souse, who still made souse, crazy
quilted blankets from old t-shirts and broken jeans,
and overlooked all sins until the age of twelve.
She hated Harry Potter, owned no television,
and was a one-woman school in the magical arts.
She never would have admitted that; moreover,
that she wasn’t ignorant of the fact herself.
She was a Christian witch, and held no contradiction
between the Levitical injunctions against sorcery
and the skills she commanded in natural potency.
For what is magic but traditional chemical knowledge,
interpretation of strange sights, communication
across seemingly impossible strands, and intimacy
with codes of healing God has planted in the earth?
Forget trigrams and crystals, and the avatars
of what hides behind the avatars; real wizardry
is a boiling pot of chicory, moon planting skills,
and knowledge of what a warbler’s movement holds.
It is not what the snake offered, and is not always a sight
of excitement. The real thing is always only medicine;
in fact, to those who practice it, that word’s preferred.
Some women are given tongues of angels, prophecies,
and heal through God’s own hand with empty hands.
Some others understand the tongues of red tails,
make poultices and cancer-killing teas. Jesus himself
once used spit and dirt to heal; and God was pleased.
So who’s to say which one contains more blessing:
the angel’s stirring hand, or the stirred up well?
Matt Prater is a poet and writer from Saltville, Va. His work has appeared in Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine and The Hollins Critic, among other publications.