The witch in the northern forests
flies with no broomstick beneath her.
You know you’re entering her territory
when the air turns bitter in your mouth,
and you find a circle of rotting animals,
which all look as though they’re smiling.
Though they know witches hunt in summer,
when the sun is high, children sidestep the corpses,
hands reaching for the fat blueberries which lie
on the other side of the circle.
There is little time before she appears,
the one whose ancestors laughed at the stake,
while flames licked away their flesh.
The witch gathers up the children
in her arms like wild flowers.
She harvests black mushrooms, spikes
gingerbread with the blood of toads, puts her
dirty head against the small pale chests, and listens
to the awful drumbeat of their failing hearts.
She always finishes them off using a sharp needle
inserted into a small, clay head.
Never a trace is discovered of these lost little ones,
except footprints, warm and bloody, and agonizing
crying heard from between the trees.