Small Town Witches
The back cow pasture was always our place, yours and mine.
Once, we walked into the pasture to smash our grandparents’ dishes
Make a circle of the porcelain, crisscrossed with salt and white sand
and become blood sisters, witches, like we’d read about
But we chickened out because what had our grandparents ever done to us?
And we fell asleep on the floor of my room, still in our jeans,
our hands marked with lipstick “runes,” our teeth black with Oreos
with Men in Black paused in the background and the dishes safely back in our bags.
A week later we danced in a circle of blue flame lit with swiped chemistry department chemicals.
Because you were Mrs. Manis’s favorite, and you could get away with anything
We hitched our borrowed theatre class robes up over our Chucks
and danced in the cold air until our lungs hurt
and our cheeks were red as the hawthorn berries
that grew in the abandoned cemetery we found that one time
and told no one about
We cut our hands and clasped them in that strange, dancing light
and as the electricity of being young and having secrets filled our veins
and we breathed the scent of Renaissance Faire essential oils smeared behind our ears
and forgot that tomorrow we’d need to be in church for Maddie’s baptism
we let it swell in our ribs and thought, yes, this is what magic is.
We sat in silence after and listened to the night sounds,
nursing our wounds as the blueness stopped dancing and went dark.
The awareness rising in our bones that this was a special thing,
a special time
and we made wordless vows to each other, our family beyond family,
that we would never let our bond be broken
And left a circle of black ash in the pasture
We are older now, and our hometown has shrunk so much that there is no place for us anymore
We are gone, you, six hours from home and me three hours down 59.
We work in safe things like teaching and tech support
We wear button-downs, heels, cardigans to cover tattoos.
and as title loan places and gas stations replace our favorite spots
our souls grow heavy with the weight of bills and aging parents and dreams deferred
But we are still our own coven.
You were the first one I called when I got into grad school.
I was the first you told when your mother got sick.
And while we’re in for Thanksgiving, we tell our families we have things to do
And go back to that pasture, now chest-high with thistles.
And as the magic flares within us, and the scars on our palms begin to itch
neither of us is surprised to find a fairy ring in the circle where we once danced.
Kate Pentecost is a Houston-based author and educator who specializes in YA and speculative fiction/poetry. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has spoken at several international conventions and conferences, and is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. She loves Houston, coffee and urban legends, and can be recognized by the enormous tattoo of Percy Bysshe Shelley on her arm.