Burial

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes Black Paintings: Witches Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)

My mother was a witch.

Nobody told me this. They did not need to. In dreams, awake, I remember her coarse black hair streaked with red ochre, her dry, chalked palms on skin, goose flesh. The slip smack of her wet, rubbery lips, wide from the howls and calls she made at sunrise, at starlight, at sombre village dances, at the birth and death of every life she watched over.

Those shiny white teeth gleaming as she smiled by the fire. Yes, my mother smiled. Yes, she smiled as she sang me lullabies in our home, songs of trees and gentle beasts, songs of river and seas, songs where the music hummed from her throat, her steadily heaving chest, where there were no words.

Our home was a thatched roof and walls of mud on the outer ring of that little village, where lived the sheep my mother herded, and tended, and cut open. She built that hut herself, her blood is in it, and mine. The smoke of her fires lingers ever in my eyes, in my nose, on my tongue, like death.

I live here now alone, salt ash flesh bile.

I live here now alone, and the sheep won’t let me leave.

The night she died, they made her meat. They needed to see that she was human, after all she did. That she was another, not other. That when she was flayed before them her bones were their bones, her flesh their flesh. Not magic, but dirt.

In the walls, through the eyes of her masks, her shrouds, her prayer beads, I watched them dig and dig. They tried to find the wild stars in her eyes. They tried to find the voice that echoed at every newborn, at every fresh corpse, at every dewy bride, they tried to find their lost sons and daughters.

But my mother was a witch.

Her blood was red but her heart sang a different song, her tongue knew words the sheep could never make sense of. She was them and she was not them.

And so they burned her pieces. They took the mud of our house, they mixed this last blood with first blood and they shaped the clay into an urn.

And then they found me.

My mother’s daggers she hewed herself – stone yielded to her as easily as wood, as fire, as people. But the sheep had other tools. A sharper kind of pain, to give the witch’s daughter.

She was dead, she was other, and she could not be buried in the soil of their crops, of their homes, of their water, of their future born. Of their future.

My belly they slit. Within they saw their own bones and within they buried the urn that held her ashes.

An unnatural end for an unnatural woman. Folded back into the life she birthed, death in living life. Ground cornmeal and wheat into bread, spittle and herb into a fresh wound. Her ashes in my screaming, singing blood.

They stitched me up, the trussed carcass of a dead lamb slaughtered and pieced together. Made into meat.

No one will touch me now.

And so they left me. An orphan, the heir of a dead witch, her coffin. My life has been her house, her pungent smoke, the memory of her shining teeth. I have never been sure of my own heartbeat.

The urn feels hard against my flesh. It feels small as a pitted stone. It carries a strange weight, it shifts within me when I try to sleep.

I watch the village from my window, so they may see that I am still alive. So they may see that she is still in me.

My throat opens and I sing to them, her lost sheep. I try and remember the words they have buried in me, I powder my hair with ochre, I chalk my palms white, I paint my belly red, white and black. When night falls my eyes gleam like fires, I dream of birthing her again, a dead and breathing thing, my lost life.

Alone, I listen to the sound of burning and try to taste fire on my tongue.

I am the daughter of a witch and I live.

(read more from Syar on her own blog)

This is also for DP Weekly Writing Challenge: And now for something different…

And Inspiration Monday.

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