What Rough Beast | Poem for April 20, 2017

Claire Wahmanholm
The Witch

A rich talker, thought the children
from their bone cages. They had been watching
the witch for several days and didn’t believe
a word she said. No one ate children anymore.
Not here, at least. And anyway,
not good children. They had already explained this
to the witch so now they just said it aloud to each other.

If she was really going to eat us, one said,
she would have done it by now.
And if she was really going to eat us,
said the other, where’s the oven?
They had heard that this was how
it was done, back when it used to be done,
which was a very very long time ago,
if it had ever even happened at all.

The children thought back to the footprints
they had made in the mud of the riverbank.
It had not rained in several days. Someone would see
the footprints and follow them along the river
and find the hut and the children inside it.
Not that there was any danger.

The hut was getting warm. The children no longer
recognized each other without their
outer layers—their winter coats, their shirts,
their skin. The river appeared then disappeared
through the woods like an enormous needle,
stitching its dark mouth shut.


Claire Wahmanholm‘s poems most recently appear or are forthcoming in Birdfeast, Bennington Review, The Collapsar, Newfound, New Poetry from the Midwest 2016, Bateau, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Memorious, The Kenyon Review Online, Handsome, Best New Poets 2015, Elsewhere, BOAAT, The Journal, Winter Tangerine, and DIAGRAM. Find her online at clairewahmanholm.com.

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