The Spell Weaver

by Kate Bernadette Benedict

From the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Daughter, said Mother,
I know what you do.
I know the charm of it.
I was young too.

I’ve watched you at mirror,
brushing your hair,
touching on perfume—
there, not there.

Whirling and posing
a feverish sprite
running downstairs,
seizing the night.

Drowsy at breakfast,
your cup at your cheek,
your peignoir disheveled—
no need to speak.

No need to tell me.
I see what I may.
I see you’re in trouble:
the family way.

Come off to Dorset.
We’ll tramp around towns.
We’ll husband the thistles.
We’ll walk up the downs.

And so to Dorset
the two of us went,
flushed with an ardent
unuttered intent.

Days on end
she searched the fields,
studied an herbal,
stole away yields:

Henbane, hyssop,
heal-all, mallow,
clover, nettles,
hawthorn, yarrow.

At the wood stove
Mother toiled,
stirring and brewing.
Tonics boiled

and filled our shack
with an alien fog
and filled my throat
with a smothering clog.

But O! how lovely
Mother looked
whenever she measured,
whenever she cooked.

And as I drank
and as I spooned,
Mother inspected me,
Mother mooned.

June progressed
to lush July.
A new thing blossomed
by and by.

A new thing Mother
had to get.
A favorite of Venus:
alkanet.

Its leaves were furred
and made a flare.
Its roots were redder
than my hair.

Red the tincture
Mother brewed.
Wild infusion!
Witch’s food.

I drank it fast.
She took my hand.
We walked for hours.
I barely could stand.

Sore to my marrow,
weak to my toes.
Sometimes I retched
between the throes.

Mother stayed near
and held my head.
She gathered leaves
to make a bed

and by and by
she took a cloth,
spat on it
and wiped me off

and told me please
Do not look
as she buried the cloth
and buried the book.

And when I opened
my shuttered eyes,
sunset burned
in Dorset’s skies.

Splendid with youth,
gorgeous with might,
Mother glowed
in that red light.

“The Spell Weaver” first appeared in The Buckeye.


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