portion of the artwork for Jeanann Verlee's fiction

Crucible, 2012
Jeanann Verlee

for MF, RM, MN, GY

Act I   The Witches

We are women. It is enough. We never boiled cats in a cauldron. Never Greteled a girl in a stove. No poisoned apples, no dancing nude in a forest. Not even a song for the moon.

We have mistakes and privileges, wounds, masks. We have thread and flour, children. Perhaps a pair of red shoes.

Here again, the moon rises. And here again, the preacher. And here again, the village. We’ve been hunted before. Dragged by our hair, mouthfuls of mud. Salved burst lips and cigarette burns. Been the blood at the stabbing, the break in the bone.

Here again, us. Gossip rattling our doors, a hundred hungry dolls in the cornfield, chanting our names. Their torches lighting the sky.

Act II   The Preacher

I was your first murder, but you’ve forgotten. Left your church after the rotted truth. All the broken teeth. Your stash of sucked-dry bones, the jars of hair. You are running out of women to burn.

Stop blaming everyone else for your sins. You snuck through the houses. You slaughtered the dogs. Now, your weeping, beguiled moppets. Your devoted choir. They cannot unsing your crimes.

Face me, Parris. Come to my tombstone and pray. Remember me. I was alive once. I watched you pour the gasoline. Mine was the voice begging No when you struck the match.

Act III   The Village

When the man at the altar (microphone) speaks, you say it is gospel. His word, The Word. His hand on a good book (beer), his hand on his heart (penis). If he says he did not murder, he did not murder. If he says he did not lie, he did not lie. And none shall speak against it. And none shall speak at all.

And here again, the moon rises. And here again, the preacher. Oh, you gaggle of trained chickens, you flurry of cluck and feather! Let me drag you to the pile of charred bones. Press your noses to the rotting flesh. This woman was a teacher. This, a painter. This girl, here, was a person. She had a heart and a face. A mind of questions, ambitions, and love. She had love.

Look what you’ve done. Your hands, covered in soot. The reek of smoke. This mountain of bodies. This, your mother. Your sister. Here, your own smoldering daughter.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 41 | Summer 2013