something of my own. I used my hands to feel the shapes of logs and stones when my eyes weakened. Then, since I had built this home, I shared it with you both when you came along—feeble from famine, feet torn from rocks and twigs, clothes tattered by time’s ravens and not warm enough for the darkening days in the deep of the forest. I took you into my cabin where I lived alone—shunned by the same people who sought me out for love magics and abortifacients, who gave me only grudging crumbs of old bread. Miserly with so many men mustered to fight in the emperor’s war. No doubt my hovel looked like a spun-sugar castle to your weary, bloodshot eyes. Yes, I bathed you both. I killed a chicken to give you wolves some supper. You breakfasted on broth made from its bones. I had mixed it with fortifying herbs. Rosemary for your aching muscles, mustard for digestion. Then when you were strong again, you fled from me and led villagers back to my door. They claimed I had consort with the devil, that I planned to serve you up in your own luxurious fat at a midnight feast, that I had cursed you so you could not pray. All the thrushes swallowed their tongues. Men searched my body and found a dark round mark upon my leg. When the torture did not stop, I played the part, parroting back the words they wanted. I shivered on the dirt floor until they lit the fires that licked my skin, reduced me to ash—
Ray Ball is the author of the chapbooks Tithe of Salt (Louisiana Literature, 2019) and Lararium (forthcoming with Variant Lit) and a poetry editor at Coffin Bell. Her poems have appeared in descant, Glass, The Tulane Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @ProfessorBall.