The Awakening: A Witch in Four Acts
To keep our sticky baby girl fingers out
of the closet, our ballet mistress warns
us of the kohl-eyed, crimson-lipped
witch who lives inside & makes hard
candy out of stray bun-headed girls.
She teaches us to tiptoe by, using relevé
like a spell of protection. My pink slippers enchanted,
I kiss another girl on the cheek for good luck.
An hourglass of pre-recorded piano music skips,
we hold hands on-stage, flowers appearing at our feet.
I lose my magic in second grade, ferried
in a yellow school bus to the Miami City Ballet.
Passing by an iron-fenced house, a hush
falls over the children like an eclipse.
That’s the witch’s house,
the girl against me says. Stay quiet. Don’t look!
She’ll fly over & take you & kiss you––
that’s how you make a witch. My brother saw her
with another girl, sucking on her like candy.
The bus hisses: a rotted, coiled viper. I shrink.
At homecoming, I can’t stomach
dancing. Some girls take off their heels
as the disco lights strobe, throwing
shoes like stones at the piñatas decorating the ceiling.
The DJ smothers the bubblegum pop. In the silence,
a boy shows me his teeth. He wonders,
winking, if he could give me a homemade lollipop.
I tell him my sweet tooth & I had a falling out
before hiding behind the candy bar. His eyes
burn me, as if I were a witch.
In the afterglow of summer,
the college campus is cuddled by hills. Here,
people are vibrant like rainbow
sprinkles. I open my third eye & find
a girl with spiders for eyelashes.
My ears become crystal balls she murmurs
magic into. We dance through a goblin market,
picking out fresh fruit. I ask if she knows how
to make candied cherries & my witch laughs––
What sweeter alchemy is there?
Tara Kustermann is a queer writer living on Florida’s Space Coast. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Star*Line, and Déraciné, among others. Like any good millennial, she has too many plants and too many cats. Find her online @NoTaraHere on Twitter or at www.tarakustermann.com.