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20 March 2010 @ 12:15 am
holofernes  
i used to dream of being a witch.

i lined my shelves with witchcraft books, i dried herbs and burned candles. wood chalice from a trip my parents took in the seventies to king arthur's faire; wand an assemblage of a chopped olive branch from the backyard topped with a crystal point from the bookstore wrapped with a scrap of suede from my endless procession of handsewn drawstring pouches. my dagger was a gutting knife, a fact i could ignore because i'd ordered from azure green and embellished it to unfortunate extremes. the pentacle, a precut wood piece originally intended to be a clockface, now woodburned with the circle star. i had tarot cards and bags of runes. handcrafted accessories in unbleached and jewel tones. conspiracies and strange mythologies.

i wore long black/never quite floor length skirts, velvet, tiered velvet, black opaque rayon level layered with black chiffon layer, glossy forest brocade, twist up twist up strung with twist cord drawstrings finished with six indian ankle bells, divided equally between the two. i couldn't stand the clanking, the jingle jingle jingle everywhere i walked. more often than not i shoved the damn bells in the waist band of my briefs to silence them because i couldn't bear the thought of cutting them off.

combat boots and velvet ballerina tops. scarves i never knew quite what to do with. a hooded wool cape that never hung right. pewter cast into tarot cards and goddesses, circlets stamped with runes. stars in circles, circles next to circles, representing the phases of the moon. a celtic knotwork piece of converging fish. you wore them on a thick woven cord because those slippery rattan ones couldn't hold a knot. rings, always you had to verify the metaphysics of the stone, god forbid you convey yourself as a citrine sort of person when you were obviously a garnet: but my fingers are thin, my ring finger fluctuates between a 3.25 and a 3.5, it means i took what rings i could get. i longed for more rings. a ring for my pointer finger with a tiny compartment behind the stone where i could stash mugwort or champa powder or poison. chunks of amber dhoop, instead i kept one in a caged pendant around my neck. on my fingers, i wore odds and ends, an unintentional collection of gifts, inheritance and unwise purchases. an ankh and a feather the witch gave me solely because they were too small to fit her. a cheap poison ring that shortly lost its stone.

i took daily swipes from a rollertop bottle of "gypsy rose" brand perfume: an dark vintage patchouli, finished with hints of amber and vanilla. it left dark stains inside my wrists. i scoured thrift stores for witchy accents, i gloated pagan certainty at landscaping and interior design elements. every female nude was really the lady; every bearded man, the lord. i bought junk, i bought so much junk. junk from junk stores i went to with friends, junk from the craft store where i worked. i bought junk and then "improved it" so it became completely unusable: after doing this a few too many times, i started leaving most of my purchases in their raw state because i didn't want to ruin something else. my room filled up with naked branch wreathes, naked plaster votive statues, spools of uncut ribbon.

hidden candles, incense i wasn't allowed to burn. i started with the over packaged and priced manufactured incense you can find at drugstores and mall candle spots: the uniform sticks are seated on matchsticks, dyed implausible colors, and saturated in synthetic fragrance oils. at one bookshop i found hand rolled sticks made from herbs and powders and essential oils; at another, i found bins of crumbly indescribable scents imported from india, all of them about the same color, dried clay traced with saffron or sandal; all of them remarkably distinct for being fragrances i'd never imagined. you took them home in slender butter paper sacks, edged by pinking shears.

i don't mean to make myself sound exotic, because i wasn't. you can't nickel and dime yourself into a memorable personality. i wasn't willowy and mysterious, i was cluttered, awkward and cheap. my clothing was ill fitting, second hand, clearance rack. i was half a foot too tall for all my skirts. with no sense of myself, i couldn't manifest a remotely coherent image: i stumbled around with a big nose in stretched out elastic, holed up hems, unflattering colors when i couldn't default to black. i had electric blue underwear and shoes stitched back together with cornflower quilting thread. nothing coordinated, nothing held up. i'd spend thirty dollars on a top and realize it looked absurd inside the month. i'm talking about clothing, of course, but it holds true for my psychology, as well. i was nobody going nowhere. distracting myself from the abyss of the future with bibbles and bobbles and bings.

i dreamt of being a witch but i couldn't be that, so i tried to be: a poetess, an artist, a waif with surprising strength, an industrial bitch with cold buckles and edges. a scholar in a black overcoat. a performance artist. a super smart grrrl. a mystic, a magician, smirking with the know. willow whispered lost and frail. i dyed my hair: green, purple, blood red, deadly nightshade, black, black, black. i wanted to be beautiful. i needed to be beautiful. beauty beauty beauty i needed it in some way even a little way just any way i could get it. terrifying abyss girl, i couldn't dare let myself fall into the mainstream, i couldn't let myself become too easily discerned. i failed, every time. i wasn't anything. i was a walking junk drawer who let one burned-out friendship and one shitty boyfriend ruin her life for nearly ten years.

he was in love with three others before we even met. the woman who lived in a trailer and drank, the man who'd taught him who to be, the girl who'd scratched his back in the dark to stabbing westward's "ungod." those three that haunted him, those three that drove all his actions from the day we met to the day we parted ways. i was just periphery, a polite distraction, or maybe a taunting point: well, if you won't have me, i'll take your friend away. he taunted me: you can't let go of anyone, he'd tell me, your expectations of people are to high, he'd say, and pearl the row with another goddamn story about the woman who lived in a trailer and drank. he never let me forget about his sacred three. the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. it was more important to impress those three, more important to punish those three, more important to try to find some way to convey his comeuppance, his good day, his i'm doing so much better than you never said i wouldn't. what it boiled down to was simply that he wanted to love them more than he was capable of loving anyone, especially me. i didn't count among the loved. i couldn't even make the second cut: there were the three and, next, everyone besides the three who wasn't me. everyone else meant more to him: the witch, he told me, was in love with him. the friend who broke my heart, in a vision he saw that she was really his soulmate. she would love him only if she knew him more. me, i was there. i chose to be a presence in his life, so i did not matter. staying with me was a generous offering. his time was a real gift. he even tried to take coyote from me, telling me she was attracted to him, telling me from a trance the story of her darkest hour. i wasn't a part of his life but i'd better not dare leave. i drowned myself in cheap velvet and witchcraft books as a distraction. on a page at the back of my book of shadows i tried and tried to make a new name.

it would take years for me to realize i'd never understood my old one: if i had, he and the rest of that poisonous handful would have started sleeping with one eye open a long, long time ago.


*

at coyote's, near boston with sister light: this, a finally completed draft that's been sitting in my folder since early january. i'm here until monday. our visit is going quite well.
 
 
Nevarranevarra on March 20th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
I'm at a loss for words. I won't belittle your words by piggybacking my own experience right on to it. But holyshitWOW does this resonate. Man, does it resonate.

Wow, j. Really. I'm beyond grateful that you posted this.
selva oscuraanonymousblack on March 20th, 2010 04:49 am (UTC)
*hughug* it makes me sad that this resonates for anyone, especially you--though i know it's a period so many of us go through while we're coming into ourselves.

thank you, b. i like you a lot. :-)
Nevarranevarra on March 20th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
Well, shoot....I like you too. :)

And don't be sad. You know, you look back on things...old journeys, processes, periods of (sometimes painful) growth and just becoming and it's hard to get your mind around what the hell actually happened. If not on the outer surface, it's deep in the onion peels. And putting it into *some* kind of perspective and being able to relate to someone else out there in the cosmos...well, it helps.

There are some things that I would hate for someone to be able to empathize with, just because you don't want to wish that on anyone. But in general, empathy can be more comfortable than sympathy.
nancykyana on March 20th, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
i loved reading this.
lesserspaces on March 26th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
I read this three times over. I swear I say the same things every time, but this is so beautiful.