A rustle and whisper
of witches on midsummer eves
The clouds are a
cauldron of cackles, a fire’s on the heath
familiars lurk shadowy, twitchy as thieves
To scramble the yolk
of your soul with their claws and their teeth.
stalking as well, with his book and his pin
To prey on the old
and the mad with a puritan zest
The moon, waxing
fat, gazes down with an idiot grin
On sabbat preparing
to welcome their cloven-hoofed guest.
It’s said that the
druids came here for the spilling of blood
The stone is still
stained by their sacrifice, blotched by each beast
That gushed out its
guts and died steaming and reeking in mud
Its spirit consigned
to the gods and its flesh to the feast.
Now offerings litter
the ground, maybe fruit from an orchard
A chicken or two,
and the charms they have brought to be blessed
And relics of those
of the coven who, taken and tortured
Drank poison to
silence their crying before they confessed.
The balefire hurls
splinters of light on the ones who survive
As if to express in
its heat all the feverish thrill
dancing and lusting and being alive
While out in the
shadows the witch-finder circles his kill.
And as the dance
quickens the sable-robed Master appears
As if out of air or
as if from a pit in the ground
He speaks (though
his mouth never moves) to their hopes and their fears
He loosens the
bindings by which their existence is bound.
Cry oh! for the
curve of the goat-borrowed horns on his head
Sigh ah! for the
gleam of his fangs and the fork of his tail
Rise up with desire
in your veins and then bow down in dread
His power is yours
for a while, and the magic won’t fail.
But out of the
God-fearing darkness the witch-finder’s men
Come swinging the
Hammer of Witches, a deadening stroke
The temple and
altar, defiled, are a midden again
The blaze trampled
out, all is ash, and the Master is smoke.
Cold dawn finds the
villagers gathering slow in the square
The squire and the
parson, the peasants and beggars and thieves
To witness the onset
of autumn infusing the air:
The rustle and
crackle of witches who burn up like leaves.
MacCulloch lives in London. He is
a regular contributor to Aphelion, Reach Poetry, The Dawntreader