we offer her milk and honey
The witch-goddess comes down the chimney. She wears blue shoes. She uses a special shampoo to wash her greasy hair. That childish, mousy ponytail, she’s going to cut it off. She doesn’t want to be a college girl forever.
co-eds, that’s what they used to say
The witch-girl has a fever. We love her like this, our hot girl, fevered in lavender tweed. She always thinks she’s too big. We worship the goddess the way she sees herself, big and blond and sloppy like a balloon.
co-eds in a bicycle race
Someone kissed her too hard and bruised her lip. She didn’t want to be kissed. It happened in a barn. Afterward everyone whispered and stared. The witch-girl sobs in rain. She wouldn’t mind moving to England, as long as there’s a good dentist.
the white white goddess is girl of girls
The May Queen dances around the pole. Or is she the pole? The Summer Queen with a pole up her you-know-what. Perhaps it’s a stake. White butterflies, white fire. I saw this girl coming down the road, all covered with ashes, her bicycle smashed.
How warm it is in the Snow Queen’s lovely fleece!
Maybe, she thinks, she could write for TV. Money is such a worry! Think of the babies! The goddess broods on the babies. She dreams she gives birth to one with a nest in its nose.
babies all over the television
The goddess gives birth to thousands and thousands of girls. The TV disgorges a river of co-eds in ponytails. They all want to reinvent themselves without changing. When they get to crying in the shower, Jesus, you can’t even hear yourself think.
white woman’s tears
A night by the lake. Freezing. Mist everywhere. I don’t belong here, I thought. I’ll never be the White Queen in her sleigh. I walked past all the big department stores, but they were closed. My black woman’s tears came out as ice and broke on the sidewalk.
it’s really difficult pushing ice out of your eyes
I lit a candle to the White Goddess. I miss you. I thought about using the candle to melt my tears. Maybe they’d come easier that way. Sometimes it’s so hard to think, you don’t want to do anything but watch TV.
lots of black girls looking like meat
Television is soothing.
The snow isn’t mine and neither is the light. A white girl came down the road with her bicycle, crying fit to die. I moved to touch her and a crack went up my arm.
i was going to take a poem she wrote and expand it into a story
Sylvia Plath. I should be ashamed of myself. I went out to shovel snow. The witch-girl passed me, up to her neck in mice. That night she recorded that she’d seen a colored woman on her way home. Darkness. Silence. The colored woman was working in the snow. The witch-girl felt very awake and happy. Her candle gave off a lot of heat. I wrote a poem about seizing the witch-girl and shaving off her hair. Then I left her some milk and honey on a plate.
ave maria holy holy
Heat rises, like a young breast. She’s Glinda the Good Witch. I want to finish the apricot cookie she threw in the trash. I want to crawl under the blankets with the sick girl. She gets so beautifully hot, our cave lights up like Cinderella’s pumpkin. As for me, every time my heart thuds, it gives off a puff of ash. I’m not even meat anymore. The goddess tries to light me, but I won’t catch. The tips of her fingers all burnt black. One match after another. Shit! she mutters. She is pretty and I love her.
so do you
Everyone cries at the altar of the witch-girl. Tears like plastic beads. Everyone would like to have hair of mice. I made a huge sandwich out of black Barbie dolls, but I’m still hungry. You can’t really help a person who doesn’t want to get better. People gas themselves all the time. They lie down under trains. They are trying to turn their bodies into things. Every time a black girl succeeds, a fairy gets its wings. That’s the noise you hear when you’re trying to fall asleep.
I love Sylvia. It is fine that I love Sylvia, because in her own special way, Sylvia loves me. Sylvia would love me if she were here. We’d be best friends. We’d write great poetry and our enemy would be Ted. Together, we’d win all the awards in the world. When she was too weak to move, I’d hold the tissue for her to blow her nose. When I felt like I was turning to ash, she’d water me with tears. We’d stand in the shower together and cry for hours.
nobody really wants a happy ending
Robert Graves writes of a mistake concerning Cardea, the White Goddess. Ovid thought her name was related to cardo, meaning hinge, so he imagined her as the guardian of doors. The goddess stood before the door and kept the night-birds out. She sang the little black girls to sleep in their osier cradles. The night-birds screamed with rage and smashed their beaks against the glass but they couldn’t get in because the door was frozen shut. They shat skin-lightening cream all over the yard and wrote their names in it with piss. They wrote YOU’RE ONLY HERE BECAUSE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. They wrote WHY DID YOU GET THAT WEAVE, DO YOU WANT TO BE A WHITEGIRL? The goddess swept it away before the girls got up. Ovid imagined her with a broom of thorn, scattering petals as she worked, but he was wrong. In fact the goddess was a killer. Disguised as a bird, she fluttered down the chimney and froze the air with her poisoned breath. By morning all the girls were dead.
After I shaved the witch’s hair I felt so bad. She ran around and around in the corner, squeaking softly. A little quivering jellied thing. We’d found her in the barn. A couple of nasty boys had already cut her tail off.
The ship moves very slowly out of the harbor into the open sea.
I am learning to rise like smoke. My face looks gaunt and leprous, but I am happy in my genius, in the certainty that Death has forgotten my name. Do you remember the night we stole the rhododendron branches, how that couple scolded us for ruining the bush? We laughed so hard! And then running back to the car and crushing the branches into the trunk, and the bitter, clinging smell of rain. Your dress was soaked. Are you still my little nightingale? Just when we thought we’d gotten away, the angry couple found us starting up the car. The woman looked fierce, the way I feel these days—like molten glass.
Come back soon, my love. I have so much to tell you.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the award-winning novel A Stranger in Olondria and co-editor of the online journal Interfictions. You can find out more about her at sofiasamatar.com.
Illustration by Maggie Meshnick