An Education

An Education
by Theodora Goss

I was sent to school with witches,
and I learned the spells they speak
in a sharp gray mouse’s squeak
while making nine black stitches.

For their spells require small things:
the voice of the mouse, and a line
of hyphens in black twine
(oh, the might in colored strings),

drops that the lilies weep
when we shake them after dawn,
bits of cambric, bits of lawn,
and a doll’s eyes closed in sleep.

And it does not matter now
that our spells do petty things,
that they prick like hornets’ stings,
that they cannot scare a crow,

for the principle’s the same:
when we exorcise your moles
with our pretty rigmaroles
(which you think a charming game),

we remember other times,
when we rode the wings of the moon
and the stars rehearsed a tune
with consequential rhymes.

Illustration by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

(Illustration by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. This poem was published in my collection Songs for Ophelia.)

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