Crone Being Misunderstood as an Evil One

— Stephanie Pressman

She has watched her sisters, like
dingos, tear children into bloody
pieces and devour them, then turn
on each other. She thought
they would eat her.
Escaped with cunning,
not before being bitten
on the buttocks.

She has consumed leeches, killed
them with a pointed stick, hoards
of them in swamp shallows.
Cooked in a soup, they were
spicy, like pork dumplings.
Satisfying enough for her until
she found a head in the soup, all
puffy pink, eyes open, hair flowing.
She knew it would taste even better
than leeches, and a voice spoke
in her head, saying, Eat. Eat. Only then
can I live again. Eat.
She turned away
and from that day eschewed flesh.

Face craggy, chin jutting, eyes
encrusted with sand, she has
seen barnacles grow,
anemones break through ice.
Fine cracks and fissures appear
in rocks, in her face. From her
body the elemental odor
of seawater, the intense
reek of small weedy pools
where the unseen swim.

Untamable, her belly grows
with age; her back bends
under cords of firewood; her
left eye clouds over, sinks
deep in translucent skin.
She has long given up slinky
dresses, elegant buckled
shoes. And mirrors. When she
eats, she grinds the food
against her gums, dribbles
mash down the front
of her graying shirt,
chews for a long time,
spittle drooling
through toothgaps.

Why should I want a baby?
Milk fed, the most tender
thing around. No, not to eat.
To grow like crystals: each
day new facets, indiscernible
centers, some aura
that has left me.
I could take that
power into myself,
I could pour myself
into it, my knowledge
would not die with me.

When she was younger, her own
offspring told her not to sing by their
beds, so she kept silent. Now she feels
her voice shuddering.

She travels alone into the forest,
anchors her talons into an ash
tree, lets the words out in long
wails. Each breath stretches
her lungs to their poor

Now sing wise
songs, breathe them
into a babe.

— Excerpted from Lovebirdman

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