You recall the tarnished rosaries
to ward off bad blood,
remember the red pattern
tattooed by wire coat hangers
on a child’s skin.
Frozen grey photos
from the Siberia of our attic
show the manicured party facade:
matching dresses, tiny hats,
patent leather shoes,
Sunday veils and white gloves.
You search for evidence among
nostalgia’s boxed ruins,
find only the toxic soundtrack
which plays on endlessly, dropping
words like incompetent, failure,
into dark seams.
Nightmares, fanged predators,
label every possible flaw.
You swallow whatever potion
will unwind the poisoned necklace of thorns,
undo a witch’s curse,
remove the lethal apple pushed with love
down a little girl’s throat.
SOURCE: Previously published by Dead Snakes.
PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age eight in Escalon, California (1957).
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Witch Hunt” is part of a series I’ve written about growing up Italian-Catholic in the Central Valley of California during the 1950s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published eight books of poetry — including Camille Verité (FutureCycle Press, 2014) — and in many literary magazines, taught with California Poets in the Schools, is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, co-edits Homestead Review and Monterey Poetry Review, helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings.