The Witch’s House

The Witch’s House
Jeana Jorgensen

“ok google, how do i cast a love spell”

So like there’s this witch’s house

“ok google, how do i know if my boyfriend is cheating on me”

I asked my sorority sister for directions
Because Google Maps can’t find it
But it’s near the nature trail where we used to run
And I think I can find it on my own.

“ok google, how do i know if my boyfriend is lying to me”

You have to go by the light of the full moon,
Sarah said, and put a childhood memory in one pocket
And a painful thing in the other (pictures don’t count
And your phone’s battery will die on the way no matter what
Even if you charged it beforehand, which I did,
But mine still died, in the middle of updating apps).

“ok google, what happens when you can’t trust yourself anymore but know you need help”

The witch’s house is basically a Tiny House,
A cottage with an herb garden, while the witch
Is just a woman old enough to be my mom.

“ok google, what is gaslighting”

She asks for the memory, and I hand her the seashell
From that summer at the lake house with my family.

“ok google, what is emotional abuse”

She asks for the pain, and I hand her the necklace Mike gave me
On our one-year anniversary, two weeks before things got bad.

“ok google, how long does it take to recover from being abused”

Before she even asks the story spills out of me along with tears:
Suddenly we were fighting 24/7 and I didn’t know why,
He didn’t like me hanging out with my friends,
He was jealous of my study group which happened to be all guys,
He kept track of me by my Facebook activities
Even when we weren’t supposed to hang out that day.
How I started to question if he loved me
And then the questions became what was even real anymore,
If my memories were accurate,
Which obviously didn’t help my grades that semester.
(neither did the panic attacks)
She listened and listened and then she said

I can help you, I can cast a spell
To gather up the parts that are hurting
But I need you to know first that
You didn’t ask for this, and you don’t deserve it,
And I need your consent to proceed.

I’m still crying, basically choking on my tears,
I’m shaking under the weight of believing him,
Believing I was crazy for so long and now
I know it’s not true, and I’ll do anything to be me again.

He did not say this to you,
They never do,
But it was never about you,
It was about controlling you,
And it was wrong.

For a moment I’m scared that this will be worse
Than the pain I’m already in.

What I’ll do is this:
Identify the places where his fingertips
Left impressions on your heart,
Begin to lift those indentations,
Smooth out their ridges.
It’s tricky work.
There’s risk, and there’s a secret.

She reaches inside my ribs
And touches and tugs
–it hurts so bad I can barely breathe–

Oh child, you’re better off without him.
He’s the type who’d salt your skin out of spite
To keep your skeleton from donning it again
After a night of flying around, being your own woman.

–cries sear my throat,
I realize it’s my own voice,
Erupting from me with all the anger
I never got to express—

This is the work, these are the words

–and I can breathe again–

The risk?
I might leave fingerprints of my own on your heart,
But they’ll be there with your consent.
Come back if you crave organ meat more than usual,
And we’ll talk.

–and I start to trust myself again,
Trust my decision to come here,
Trust that things will be okay.

The secret?
You can reshape them in time when you’re ready.
Your heart is your own; it always has been.
Now you know what to guard against,
For others will always try to claim
Those they cannot control
Precisely because you’re free.

“ok google, women’s support groups on campus”

Jeana Jorgensen earned her PhD in folklore at Indiana University. She has taught folklore, anthropology, and gender studies at universities around the Midwest as well as at UC Berkeley. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Stone Telling, Enchanted Conversation, and Mirror Dance. She blogs at Patheos and is constantly on Twitter. “The Witch’s House” is dedicated to Kay and K.