Art by Liliana Sanches
The Sea Witch, Gardening
by Susan Slaviero
It should be easy, all diadem and oyster.
Every year I grow new tentacles for tending
my eelgarden, for rooting tongues
from pretty mouths. But this blighted
plot of sand, gone to gray mire and skullbones.
Whirlpools sucking at the tendrils of my hair
when I try to cultivate some amber fruit
or violet-red blossom for storm-potion.
I scrub the grit from under my fingernails
with octopus ink, a knot of snakes.
There is a toad in my teeth, for luck.
How many swordsplit tails does it take
to enchant the ocean floor? Pouty girls
beat at my door with tiny fists, wanting
to be dragons, dryads. I whip their arms
into branches, their ears into broad,
green leaves. Distort their spines
into xylem and phloem, concentric rings.
They will age more quickly now.
This one wants to smoke a cigarette,
wear high-heeled shoes. Behind my hand
I mutter words like foam, dust, collapsed lung.
I scribble a notation in my sorceress's book--
a method for planting the parts they leave behind--
hoping to harvest sea-apples, obedient daughters.