August 2010

Emma Bolden


Emma Bolden's chapbooks include How to Recognize a Lady (part of Edge by Edge, Toadlily Press), The Mariner's Wife (Finishing Line Press), and The Sad Epistles (Dancing Girl Press). She was a semi-finalist for the Perugia Press Book Prize and a finalist for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center's First Book Prize and for a Ruth Lily Fellowship.

The Witch Is Called and Answers    

—from a book-length series that follows the story of one 16th century
witch who is at first praised by the village but then accused of witchcraft,
put to trial, and burned at the stake, these poems explore the intersection
of forces which led to the persecution and execution of thousands of people,
particularly women, whom society deemed as different and therefore dangerous.

The rye curled     into itself     the fields
    a thousand fists     of grain raised dry
         to accuse     the perpetual     azure

priests came     with their waters
    which their God ignored     turning on us
         forever     His disastrous

patience     His fatal blue     I was called
    after the thirteenth cow     died from want
         of grazing     henbane and hazel  

branch     I traced a circle
    in oak woods     I made
         with Him a bargain     o God take

from me anything     to grant   me
    this power     your power     o power
         it rained

each cloud     a gash
    of mouth     through which sky
         screamed rain     and hail     and I

in God's answer     whirled     wet
    robes     the hands
          of the village     praised me

my name     as it rained
    my rain     which would
         not stop     until the flood's    

gray feet     kicked down    
    the strongest     home



The Villagers Make Known Their Warning to the Witch    

In winter's wake          the men planted          a fire

in the cleared field          warmed their arms          readied

for the necessary           cruelties          of civilization          a rat

the fattest one          found in the fields          scorched by dogwood

the long slow note          of its throat          vanished

to ash          each tooth charred          a warning to the others          teeth

stay in the safe          wet pouch          of the mouth          do not

dig the tubers          while tender          never pierce          the young

leaves          at their sweetest          for men          there is power          in this

fire          eager          as a cat          lapping          the skin off          the body

of cream          in the far          fields          around their young          

the mothers huddled          transformed          to a thousand needles          quaking



Emma Bolden: Poetry
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