Friday Poem – Witch


This week’s poem is a section from Damian Walford Davies’ second collection Witch, just in time for Halloween!

With the narrative pull of a novel and the vibrancy of a play for voices, Damian Walford Davies’ Witch offers a thrilling portrait of a Suffolk village in the throes of the witchcraft hunts of the mid-seventeenth century. The poems in this collection are dark spells, compact and moving: seven sections, each of seven poems, each of seven couplets, are delivered by those most closely involved in the ‘making’ of a witch. The speakers – from Thomas Love the priest, the villagers who slowly succumb to suspicion and counter-accusation, the ‘discoverer of witches’ Francis Hurst, and the ‘witch’ herself – authentically conjure a war-torn society in which religious paranoia amplifies local grievances to fever pitch. Witch is a damning parable that chimes with the terror and anxieties of our own haunted age.

An extract from Witch

She was threshing out
a prayer from deep inside

her chained throat’s
gabble. The air was dizzy

with her dirt. Which art,
she kept repeating,

which art in, as if the once
lithe tongue were damned

to dwell on it. Hustling
clouds let sunlight flush

in pools; she sprang
and chased it, thwacking,

thwacking back again
along her jangling leash.

Did they expect she’d
partner them in one

last meek pavane?
She scratched and bit,

lapsed sullen. At the gate
they bound her wrists

until the knot was
knuckled like a fist

and dragged her bucking
in the dirt. I followed

in her rut and fierce
curlicues, like the carving

of the vine stock’s sudden
flourish into grapes.

Shouldered like a sheaf,
bare hockshins shocking

white, she felt the press
of bodies pitching up

against the pikes. Each
rung made her trussed

bulk skip. He botched
the roping-up, the halter

like a bridle round her
mouth. She turned to him

with squally eyes. Her feet
on his, he held her like

a husband by the waist,
and let her go.

Order Witch from our website.

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