Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Speaking of witches

Here's another poem. It comes from having watched the Hindi film Ek Thi Dayan, and its sadly confused take on the subject.

The idea seemed promising: a growing boy, fed on a foolish diet of myths about what witches look like and what their motivations might be, turns against his stepmother. The consequences are tragic. The film, however, is a failed promise to itself. It blunders along its twisted plot without giving pause to speak for - or even a proper look at - the soul of the 'witch'. I was also a bit distressed by the film's refusal to challenge any 'evil' stereotypes in a nation where women continue to be killed if they're branded 'witch', although everyone knows that this is usually about property or personal vendetta.

What I did find interesting, though, were the brief glimpses into passionate relationships, and the powerful feelings of jealousy evoked in the minds of those who compete for a beloved's affections. A couple of dialogues grabbed my attention particularly, for they made me think of the torturous emotions that accompany sacrifice, and the human need to intercede with destiny, the human willingness to go to any lengths for a small portion of happiness and love. That led me to the writing of this poem:

The witch did not lie.
When it’s all down to hair and skin and promisesof dust-to-dust,
when she has suffered you cracking her open
in each pore,
she finds the nerve
to confess.
The witch cannot lie.
Love is the devil and it brooks
no small sacrifice.
It has to be your morsel of innocence –
the one who needs you most, the one you can kill for,
you give up.
The witch seeks the devil’s advice.
He knows what it means to lose it all.He knows about pride and falls, twisted ankles, broken wings.
He knows where to escape to when the beloved
is within.
The witch crawls about the floor
in wracking nights. She clings to windows and prays
to all the gods she knows to save her from this thing
convulsing her soul.
But done is done is done!
Now plain to see – her eyes! her feet! –
the twisted signs.
The witch howls.
She cut out her heart and set it afloat.
She cut out her eyes and buried them below
the foundations of your town. She returns every night
breathless, blind, whispering
a mantra to bring you back.
But you are sea.
You are wind.
You are beloved.
You are free.
*

First published in: http://northeastreview.com/2013/10/04/annie/

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