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The witch lives

in the woods and

waits for children,

they say; I got tired

of waiting, and moved

to town. I don’t know

what monster lives

in the wood and

terrifies the children,

the last one was cut

into a thousand pieces

and thrown into the sea

by yet another Jack.


I married a man, solid, plain,

no magic needed—all I did

was braid my hair and smile

and not talk much to him.

And I made a child for myself,

handsome, sweet, out of his

hair and kisses

and teeth

and blood.

He’s a proper growing child

becoming strong and bright

for all that his father’s dull and loud.


The more my son grows tall,

his father wanes;

what’s fair is fair, I say,

for his father said

he’d do anything, if he

could only see a boy child

an inheritance—

a lost tooth here,

a pricked thumb there

and never disturbing the nesting birds

in the rafters I brought inside by winter.

Some men are so desperate for a legacy

they don’t care how you give it.

Come spring my boy will be to my elbows

and his father will be in the churchyard;

there’s nothing I, or anyone

can do about the cough that’s never gone away—

he traded his breath to live to see

his only dream fulfilled.


Well he’s my son, now

mine, like the village is mine

shaped with time and worry and love.

Whatever’s in the woods—

a monster, a mad thing

a magician driven to despair

by a debt with the devil—

my boy won’t be the one

who wanders out when the mushrooms bloom.

The Host will not take my boy

for plucking strange flowers

or eating odd fruits.

He’ll know his stories, and he’ll know

the safest place for witches is right here

inside the stone walls, thank you,

selling scrumpy in the town square on Tuesdays.


Hush, darling, hush;

it will be quiet soon.

By equinox nothing will give you bad dreams anymore

soon, nobody will make you scared

or say that secrets will come out.

Soon it will be just you, me,

and the Martinmas birds


Lev Mirov is a doctoral student in Tolkien Studies by day, and a novelist, poet, and medievalist by night. He has an MFA in crip ballet and decolonial theory, and lives on Piscataway lands with his husband Aleksei Valentìn. Their alternate histories, The Faerie States and The Peninsular Kingdoms, are Lev's passion. Follow him on Twitter @thelionmachine or explore further at
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