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The Last of the Granny Witches

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Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.

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God knows our names.

We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.

We are not peaches.

And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…

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free verse

My Scimitar

A swinging of my sword
A chilling shriek of pain
Heathens to my left and right
There will not be an end in sight
Trembling, crying as I slay
The creatures that come forth
Day after day
Mud on my clothes
Blood on my hair
No food or water to be found
Just the onslaught that will never end
My scimitar, it bends and curves
A flick of the wrist
And it ends all woes
For today
For the moment
For the threat at hand
And what becomes of me tomorrow?
What monsters can you send my way?
Will all this dying never cease?
Will glad tidings ever find their way?
I screech inside
I die a little with each fight
If only it did not end this way
I wanted to be friends
lovers
confidants
But life would not allow
The wild imaginings of a child
Against the realities of world
I am sorry I sought out to find you
I’m sorry I’ve left all I know behind
I’m sorry I lied to the fates and heaven
To love that would have held me close
Phantoms haunt me each moment I’m awake
My hallowed ground slowly recedes
Where else can I go?
What more battle lies ahead?
My blade calls me forth
To end my own agony
A thing that you would never do
I pray tomorrow will be different
I pray the dawn is coming soon.

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A Dance with Darkness

I hear the drum, just a hint of it. More of an accidental tap of the player’s hands. Still, I shudder inside. The agony of knowing what’s coming next makes my stomach churn.
There are those who wonder what they are and there are those who know, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And would give all the world to change it.
Backstage I wonder. Do they think of me as a person with laundry and bills? Do they know who I am when I’m not out there? When there are no lights. No music. When no one’s looking. I begin to pace back and forth. Anxious. Nervous. Awaiting the inevitable. “This is it. This is it,” I say to myself.
I check my reflection in the full length mirror. And all I see is a normal woman staring back at me. A confident body. Complementing colors. Proper costuming. Makeup. The eyes. There’s something uneasy about the eyes that makes me stop. Dark and sunken. Unrested.
“No. I look fine. I look fine,” I tell myself. I know it’s not my eyes they come to see. “Breathe. Just let it happen and breathe.”
I don’t want to go out there again.
I press my head against the mirror and hold my tears back, but they insist on gushing forth. Ruining my makeup. I don’t care.
I don’t want to change again.
No more. This is me. This is my skin. I know it well. I live in it when I’m not out there.
I dread what’s coming next.
The truth is, I don’t even feel it when it happens. Only the moment before. That first breath. The moment the music starts is all I feel. And then it happens. I don’t really know how. Or why. But I am not myself. The thing out there. It’s me and yet it’s not. I have no memory of anything that happens beyond that breath. I have no command of my body. Of movement. Or, dare I say, speech. Thought and reason release me. Like I am nothing to them.
I am another thing entirely.
And the creature, the thing that I become, I don’t remember what it does or who it hurts or where it even goes. I don’t even know what it looks like. Just that it’s there, using my body. Pulsating underneath my skin. I shudder to think of what becomes of me when my senses leave. In a world where right and wrong don’t matter. Where nothing I did yesterday ever really existed. And there is no tomorrow.
I wish I could remember more of it. I wish I could say it loves or hates. Or feels pain of any sort. That it’s human, but I know it’s not. I know this by the lack of feeling. By the void that feeds it. By its hunger that is never satiated. By the dark and lonely places only it could ever touch. Nothing human could survive that darkness for very long. When it comes through me, I swear…I swear it comes up for air. Like it might suffocate in the abyss without me. But it can’t. It won’t. It’ll never die.
And when the music ends, it’s over. The creature leaves me. But only for a little while. It’s immortal. And I am bound to it as so many others are. We take turns giving it life. Letting it live in our world. We provide it a way out of its dark and lonely void. As surely as the moon sits in the night sky, I am what I am. A catalyst. A vessel. This hybrid thing. This human with holes enough to summon a creature out from the depth of darkness. And release it into an unsuspecting world.
When I die, there will be another to take my place. As long as there are humans, the creature will find a way back. How do so many accept a fate I loathe? How do they look upon it as their duty? I do not know.
All I know is this is what I was born to do. Anticipation and fear wither in the presence of destiny.
The rhythm starts. And so does the flute. I step out onto my stage, awaiting my new breath of life.

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The Forgotten Road

The road itself is narrow
and ridiculous.
Forgotten by those who know better.
And those privileged.
How could I have seen you from afar?
How could I have known what lay beyond these bushes
Beyond these stars?
Some say, I found the road years ago,
when the planets aligned
when I was lost and unafraid
when passion stirred and hope inspired
when virtue held us to our wits.
I would say, the road found me.
And here I’ve been ever since.

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Where am I to go Now

There were places I could go
when I needed someone.
Places where all the world
would make me forget.
Places that would make me
dance and sing
and do all the things
that lovers do.
Now, the doors are closing.
One by one, they lock their doors.
Each one swifter than the other.
I sat in anger and frustration
at all of them.
I cried, “where am I to go now?”
Someone whispered “inside”.

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Gold and Silver

They came to me yesterday
With offers
Of Gold and Silver
and a safety I have never known.
Things for which I’ve always longed.
I asked them, “How do you like it here?”
“We are stuck,” they said.
“Stuck and old.  Too old to change.
But you…you will like it.  Safe and calm and ever-reaching.
You will want for nothing while you are here.”
The offer is clear.
Safety, in exchange for growth.
But is one worthy of the other?

The call to what is safe and stable.
The call to what is wild and unknown.
Knowing I cannot have them both.
Knowing one call will become a murmur
and one day die…

I ask for what I’ve never asked before.
Give me something that will pierce my skin,
and make me cry.
Remind me that I’m still alive.
Bring me death and back again.
Leave me to starve.
Then bring me to banquets beyond my imagine.
Make me run, until I have no place to go.
And then reveal yourself to me, in the simplest of ways.
Remind me what I was before I came to this place.
Before I was tempted with all that was not mine.
Leave me to explore all the wonder
and the horror
and the depth
that is You.

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Ghosts

There are those who walk among us
Frail, fragile…forgotten.
Who knows what thoughts consume them.
What secret wishes whisper in their ear.
Absurd it is to listen, to one who mumbles to the air.
They have no weight, no form to live by.
No sustenance to give to man.
I wish I could say they mattered.
As every soul that ever lived.
There are those who’ve wasted all their breaths.
They come, expecting more from us.
To them, I say “it’s over.
Life has come and gone.
Just because I see you, doesn’t mean you’re real.”

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