“The Witch’s Daughter” by Joan Murray

Joan Murray


The witch, we knew. Because she lived below 
the cliff we scrambled over. And she yelled 
ten times worse than anybody’s mother. So the witch 
was the one we took everyone to see. First, we’d 
creep along the cliff edge soundlessly, then let out 
a scream of laughter. Oh how the witch 
detested laughter. To her it was a dog ripping out 
her throat, or a knife doodling in her gut, or the fat 
Monsignor sitting down and squeezing all her air out. 
But the witch’s daughter never came out. The witch’s 
daughter made herself invisible with a spell. 
Yet now and then, we’d see the pair of them, 
walking together, step by step, trying hard to look normal, 
step by step, putting one foot down and then the other, 
like everyone else on Ogden Avenue, till we 
couldn’t stand it a second longer, and someone 
had to shout, Look out, it’s the witch and the witch’s daughter! 
And we’d dive between two cars and hide for our lives. 
But sometimes in the hallway of the school 
we’d see the witch’s daughter without her mother, 
looking like any other kid, looking almost like us 
in her brilliant disguise of an ugly blue uniform 
and even having a kid’s name like the rest of us, 
till someone had to shout, Look out, it’s the witch’s daughter! 
And then she would run. All the way home to her mother. 
Where she could be as evil as a mountain. And as cold 
as the dark. And as invisible as a star. 

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013

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Joan Murray: “I’m a narrative poet. Also a visual poet. And a rhythmic, aural, kinetic one. I like to vary my moves. And paint with a full palette. I was the kid who was always drawing. Poetry is how I draw now. I like how it extends my pleasures and dilutes my miseries. I like the way it lets me walk invisibly through other people’s houses and leave radiant messages on their walls.” (www.joanmurray.com)

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