When All Goes Mum

This is the season when all goes mum,
And even the most transient of guests
Shut fast the windows in their
Boarding nests.
The witch rides by on her steed of oak,
Across the moon into a choke of withering
Cherries and nut trees down the lane,
Searching out her young in vain.
‘Come back to me, my child lost,
Come back to me, my dearest love.’

But the moon stares upon her cold and
Yellow, like the wolf’s own ingrown eye, and
Even the caulking at the casements
Cannot deny the moans and wails, the saddest sigh
Of a mother whose child has surely died.

She bends to pick up a chestnut corn,
Worries and rubs its chestnut thorns,
Implores the town to hear her mourn,
For spring’s arrived  – tis when she most
Fears to be alone.

The visitors’ hosts climb the stairs,
Raking fingers through their hairs –
‘This is bad for business, dears!’ and
Light a tallow candle.
The glow is soft, but cannot dispel
The curse of what the witch foretells:

‘Until my boy returns to me,
Nothing shall be born.
No one shall ride the sea on ship,
No new men will carry at their hips
Sacks full of grain, for all harvest now will wane and bleed and
Die, soon as
Flowered on the vine.

In the thicket she once more bends low,
The despairing wickedness returns to grow,
The tears she sheds dry unto ice, then blown to
Sheet, covering the land and sheep,
Crystallizing wool with snow,
Silencing weary bleats.

Her sorrow comes for days, then years, and
Those once young now elder, hear:
“This is Forever Winter Mine.”

The cherry trees, once dressed in pink, their suffering
Molded now to stink.  The bees, the birds, the fruit all gone,
And the witch, stretched out full long beside her broom.
She picks it up and sticks it down the narrow space from
Foot to crown and hangs upon it like torture on the rack.

Thus you’ll find her, when nothing stirs and all is cold,
Nothing left feels soft to hold.
She weeps for time and time untold,
Till everything is gone save
Lying in ashes upon the town,
Where what could swim now only drowns,
Where what could walk is hobbled, old,
And what might speak is silenced, told only of
The madness of a mother
When sun goes out.


Sara Barnett


SARA BARNETT is an award-winning artist in NYC, found in recording booths, on stage and screen, and at IMDb.COM. Her fiction and poetry can currently be found at Arsenic Lobster, Beautiful Losers, Body Parts Magazine, and the upcoming issue of Anima Poetry, a UK review.

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