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
bread salt brandy
let the hole
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.