Elegy for Witches

by W. Todd Kaneko

When that old woman died, they shut the doors
with tiny hands never wondering about why she lived
alone in the forest. They feared her
hands like scythes, her teeth broken knives.
The oven was still hot.

A boy might scrutinize her bones
one day, run teeth along her clavicle
because he was left to play in the ashes,
to wander in smoldering wood.

Look to the trees, see those skeletons
gathered, deciduous in February
when the birds have turned black.

When the larks drop to the ground like spoiled
figs, when the cardinals have been extinguished,
remember the sparrows hopping on the porch
confident they will never die.

Everything grows old—mountain
lions shrivel into feral cats, ogres wither
and play chess in the park.

And that old woman—once she lived
in a house like yours. Once she worried
about losing herself to the forest, too.

W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work has appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Southeast Review, Lantern Review, NANO Fiction, the Collagist, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop. He teaches at Grand Valley State University. Visit him at www.toddkaneko.com.

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