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Introductory Note

In mid-autumn of 1870, the Grey Witch set off from London on a journey to inner Japan via the port city of Edo. Accompanied by her friend and disciple Sandro, she stopped at the village of Ueno in Iga Province, where she searched for practitioners of the necromantic Kamioroshi incantation. She also traveled to the Yasukuni Shrine at Chiyoda, dedicated to the death of those in service; to the mountain Yama-no-kami famous for radical quantum theologies; and to the ancient Yomi-no-kuni, land of the dead.

But her journey was not merely a quest to resurrect her lover, Earl Thomas Appleton of Bixelby, who died in the great battle of London in 1870, defending the city against the Tintagel Wizard—it was the beginning of a wayfaring period of her life.

The trip to Japan lasted until the early summer of 1871.

Of her haibun, only two cycles survived Sandro’s death, when their house and all the Grey Witch’s journals were destroyed by the great Chicago dragon in late 1871, while the duology had fractured.

 

Fragments of the Grey Witch’s Haibun

The African Mermaid refers to events from her life before Lord Appleton, when she was upon her Grand Tour at the precocious age of 50.

In the winter of 1872, the Grey Witch found herself in Wales, exploring the forgotten isles, when the army of Connacht invaded. Upon the request of the crown, she negotiated peace between the Morrigan trifecta and Connacht’s forces. When Connacht reneged on the terms, she freed the Morrigan, in exchange for the location of Tir Nan Og. Prior to her visit there, she wrote Trinity. Some scholars of prosimetric charms point to the order of invocation in this haibun as similar to her subsequent summoning of Erishkigal, first lady of the Underworld.

The Grimoire version of Trinity did not survive—only this earlier version exists. This draft may provide insights into her final disappearance.

 

The African Mermaid

I was walking along the Zambezi River when I saw an African mermaid, scantily clad, singing merrily. Would her lover be able to endure this streaming world, white-foamed with rapids? She seemed as substantial as the river rocks that would smooth over time, still sharp-edged in the shadowed sun. I kissed her goodbye and said, leaving,

Ten water droplets
Contained within our sorrow
Ignore winter tears.

Moist air swirls against me, begging for death’s breath. The Goliath Heron sounds kowoork when she surfaces. The mosquitoes buzz and whine, dissatisfied with my blood. My ex-paramour waits for me to slip on the stones.

Her teeth are sharp night
Once she bit my plaintive soul
River scars long ago.

You met the mermaid on a river cruise, an expedition. She swam circles around you. When she was your lover the world was gray and damp and glittered. You flowed with her dark tides and set with her moons. You bled as one.

Swirling away red
Current steals our old secretions
River effluvia.

 

Trinity

Badb

The old woman washes her clothes at the ford, swirling fabric in the river. She has to make the beds of the hostel. The dead require bleached linens and starched sheets. They demand shrouding and keep her awake at night with their clattering dances. Her knuckles crack with the cold. She’ll have to wrap her hands to keep her blood from blotching the sun-warmed sheets when she folds them. The dead can no longer be stained.

Crow hops up and down
Pecking battlefield relics
Eyeballs faded death

Macha

The pregnant horse could destroy the world. Her feet have never been shod and no bit bites her mouth. She is free to rear and heavy with foal. Her teeth are sharp with rage, and when she strikes, the man dies. He never should’ve tried to break her.

Once I was a wife
Now the ring on my finger
Shackles me no more.

Nemain

The scream kills a hundred men. They topple like toys, soldiers collapsing under the wind. The rippled rage flattens their grass. Her roar is chomping malice, slavering, and she appears to them all, those young and foolish men, at the moment of death. Grants them silence into the twilight.

She is youngest now
Maddened pure insanity
Deaf to her no more.



Calie Voorhis is a short story writer and poet, a lifelong fan of the fantastical, an Odyssey Workshop Alumna, and holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill. You can visit her at the world’s fourth worst writer’s website: www.calievoorhis.com.
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