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Julia Heney

The Witch


I was the wife because I was shorter,

which meant I paid for groceries

with my salary from the bakery

where I made cookies. Sweet

to play the role of nurturer,

provider. When the man stained the counter

green with turmeric, I scrubbed

until it was blue and neat. Then,

someone arrived at our door

one night while he was at work.

She – I – was dressed as a witch,

all in white. Come in, I said

and she sat at the cherry table,

declined a cup of tea. The witch

drank vodka neat and preened,

hiding rogue beetles in her handkerchief.

My hair was wild as hers but clean. At first

she had no words for me.

Take the plants from the windows

when you go, she said. And then

I knew I would leave.






Dishonesty wasn’t the goal:

like sorrow, which doubles back on itself, it won’t sit


still. Diagonal rays drink

from the font. Retreat, retreat;


the sand in its dune sweeps

into a taller peak, cold.


You speak with precision, but

read from a stone book. It’s not wrong, but not


a warm place to begin. Begin with the hand

or the heart that beats: the earth


darkens nightly to your delight or surprise.

Comfort is comfort. I stand


and turn in place three times. I do not know

I speak a lie: I’ll always stay with you.

Julia Heney poems

Julia Heney received her MFA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Her work has appeared in CutBank, Devil's Lake, the Best of the Net Anthology, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. 

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