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The witch who advertised her services
on Facebook walked us around the lake,
talking about herbs that heal and what we could gather to eat
if big oil failed, if the stores all closed and the lights went out.
She wore a lace dress over some kind of tracksuit;
feathers and dried flowers crowned her dredlocks.
She told us she’d had a nervous breakdown,
and in the hospital a schizophrenic friend on the ward
confessed that trees spoke to him. They spoke to her too!
So maybe they weren’t crazy. Maybe the trees were talking.
Released, she headed for wilderness, and renamed herself
Phoenix. Risen from ashes. Now she leads witch-walks
to show people what’s under our feet: broadleaf and marshmallow,
garlic grass, chamomile, mugwort, comfrey.
Plus at least nine hundred
different kinds of sage–she spoke of its myriad uses:
cleanser, hex-remover, sanity-restorer–and I thought
of the nine hundred different kinds
of knowledge there are in this world,
most of them invisible.
I don’t know what I’d expected–a portal, perhaps,
to magic me elsewhere, but she spoke only of a slight shift
in perception, that which might allow
a tiny purplish wildflower to be a doorway.
She wanted us to view Heaven
as already manifest here, on Earth,
even amid the rubble and desolation
of our unraveling, yes, especially then,
she said, if we can sing through these throes,
our lives, too, might become beautiful as weeds.
Copyright 2020 Alison Luterman. From In the Time of Great Fires by Alison Luterman (Catamaran 2020).
Alison Luterman is a poet, essayist and playwright. She lives in Oakland, California.