Spell for Attraction, Containing Belladonna (and other poems)

Spell for Attraction, Containing Belladonna

Your eyes are familiar: purple like the skin 
of a fruit she’s bitten—

In another life, this girl addressed you
and undressed you without hesitation

but in this one, she rocks her loneliness 
until the Fates grant her some unwinding. 

The spell says first she must dig 

          in the black 
          dirt, 	pull up 
          the nightshade, 
          replace it 

bread		salt 		brandy

          let the hole 
          these gifts

then shovel the dirt back over, bury 
that which she offers up.

The spell says she must trek 
for home, moist ground mucking up 

her shoes. The spell says she must 
not speak on the way across the field. 

She must not speak until the hearth 
greets her. Then she may think how

both now must be joined. The spell says 
to grind the leaves, boil them down, 

drop that tea in the eyes. 
The spell promises they will grow wide 

and beautiful—bella donna—she will blink 
the power of the root. The spell says 

you will not be able to look away.

Lesson of Fire and Phoenix

What boils down beauty is the cauldron 
of odious comparisons 
and the flaming conviction
you failed to brew the right concoction
	(that erstwhile love spell turnstile). 

But damn toil and trouble—if you walk
away somnambulant, you leave the burners on.

Don’t be a slow learner of the physics of scorching. 
Don’t choose to simmer like some shy incarnate.
Doubledown willingly. Own it, go for broke! 

Hold open the oven door and throw your own 
fool self in, devising the very worst hell of heat. 

Succumb to all those imagined 
defeats: melt, spill over, explode— 
then navigate char. Rise, bare-boned,
purified, out of smoke.

The Sugared Plum

According to tradition, 
it’s bad luck to refuse your kiss 
under the mistletoe. 

Six drupes means six times 
the tip of your tongue should hover 
in the innermost corner 

of my mouth. And though I am 
curious about the taste 
your lips might bring, 

I also wonder how many tainted 
berries brought you to linger 
here, with the likes of me. 

How many presents have you 
already unwrapped, how often 
have your fingers folded back paper

—or choked up girls with ribbon? 
I’d like to stand here—instead—
on the threshold of your potential 

gifts, rather than sweat in stifling rooms, 
heady on spice and wool,
tradition hanging down above us. 

Maybe later you can pull me out 
to where the crisp air cools this blush. 
Maybe later, it will be enough 

to stare together at houses that shine 
like beacons sugared with snow. 
And then, if you lay your hand 

to my throat, then, under no eaves 
or fabrication, it may be just 
enough to close our eyes, to wait,

to hold still.


  • Christine Butterworth-McDermott’s latest poetry collection is Evelyn As (Fomite, 2019). She is the founder and co-editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. Her poetry has been published in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, The Normal School, The Massachusetts Review, and River Styx, among others.

  • Bryan Buckley is a photographer and metal fabricator in Massachusetts.