The Moonlight Witch

Angana Mondal

Waves wash dead seagulls and salt
Onto her cold naked body.
Charcoal puppet – she crackles like a dead leaf
Docking against slippery boulders.
Her eyes, salmon pink, fish-skin cold
Joggle loosely in her hollow skull; like wet marbles
Muddied broken teeth; and broken breasts
Like mountains gnawed in northern winds.
Skin burned into hanging rags
Of her mother’s muslin;
Wrists slashed like soft tomato-tops
Baby pulpwood against stainless steel.
Eight months and three days - she has been dead
Amidst seashells of north and puny eviota fish
That swim through open wrists into hollow woven insides;
A dead seed – a bag of dust collecting moss
Splashes in her murky saltwater-insides.
Brown streaks on river-veins mark territory
Of black seas and black beards
Crusted with prophecies and hookah breaths,
Her insides – sediments of heresy and ocean salt;
Never hers.
The women tell their children
To stay away from the shores where
The Moonlight Witch lies still
Reeking of melting bones and demon hide.
When evenings creep – their doors latch
They hear her sing; in hollow humming
Like the whistling of flaky warm-water snakes
Searching for lost homes.
They talk in low voices about the days she roamed free
Devouring cattle at night;
Fingernails caked in blood by dawn;
Carrying the ocean in her deepening eyes.
The ploughman’s axe works in silent riddles
Sweaty turbans grow fat with secrets.
Mussels adorn her shrunken collars; like Persian pearls
Shimmering willows bend over; like towering forefathers.
When children at play, venture onto the shore
And a boy pokes her with a stick –
They swear, those salmon eyes tremble
And turn like slow eels.
The children flee; waves wash over her empty skull.
Stars bleed onto a putrid purple sky
The riveting froth pulls her in;
A slow-spinning, slow-breathing mother.
The moonlight glitters on quiet demon sands –
Bloodstained, empty, hungry.
The Lost Daughter sails home
Her torn throat flooding with saltwater corals
And spurned breasts sprouting bellflowers of wild seas.

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