Issue #3

I Go to the Trees

Elizabeth Mikesch



My skin has nicks. There are languages, pages and numbers, stars and charts, all forbidden by Gram—oh dominion, mystique! The books are bibles, thick and noxious, hearty and weighty. Jehovah is unhappy with me.


Gram blabs of dark magic, says I do not believe.


Snakes! she says. Dangerous.


I am too young to get it—the priestesses and the religious agree. I wish I were psychic, but still am no mystic. All old ladies are witches.


They say bedeviled! Possessed!


I hide catalogues under serpentine springs, coiling jagged and snagging my scripture. The pages worn, torn out, charged. I am made by quincunxes, septiles and planets. My knowingness singes the edges of pages up skyward. They curl beneath the covers. The texts are quilted: hideous, beaten.


A good harvest.


That is darkness, worship.


Almanac, I say to Gram.


I skip back to bed and uncover my creed, mesmerized by recitation-rites. I take blades to my sides to draw arrows, twins—Oh, the sting! Would that I could sustain.


Saturnine children dare not be adorned in dark hues lest the devil will pick them for plagues, say they. I am sick with the dictums that sing to me, the pages infectious.

I sit through what they call the meeting. I am hauled to the Kingdom Hall fuzzy and sleepy and sore from my Saturday scarring. I have listened too long to their tellings.


What sustenance is heretics? Disfellowship for transfusions, for cheating, for gambling or drinking.


I cannot say birthday without hisses—the elders, the littles. I get asked what for and what is this?


My birthday, I ask Gram again and again to tell palmists my sign and my rising.


Winter, she says.


I need the certificate.


Lost it, she lies.


I am tired of the shouting, the shunning.


We march down the lanes, knock on doors. We leave papers in hands of neighbors who hate us. Pamphlets.


I sit outside classrooms when kids give allegiance. Not one intuits my lesions. I roll down my socks to see Neptune—ruler of undoing, colored sea blue in crayon. I drew a man in wax with fins to hook on my headboard. I will call him a fish to my Gram. Should she find him, I will not be nice.


It is not nice, says Gram, to be starry.


Press. The heat of the glyph flushes red. When I wash, I lock and unlock the brass knob. I do not let Gram in to talk. She knocks. Water runs. I make a splash.


You will prune.


Soon, I will get out. Hear this: I witnessed nothing.


Read me now—soothsayers, prophets, tarotesses! Oh, clairvoyants, if you only could give me my fortune. I would puncture my numbers and adorn them.


Moons and mercuries staining up my side, poison midheavens for liveries. Insignia of luscious Venus and martian birthmarks could deliver me.


You have heard our knocks. Were I you, I would keep the door shut.


There is a box of spilt papers, yellowdogs, and there papers sit—signed by my mother. Should I have the natal hours, I should know which sign, but should Gram find me finding—I will not be nice. Oh, Jehovah.


I am a witch in my wishes, I am saying. There have long been locks betwixt the mattress.


In the dark, she pulls her out her partial plate and brushes it clean and it clinks in the bowl. I have seen her mole on her nipple, have seen how her nose points arrowed out. I have seen how she lies, how she dyes her hair yellow. She cuts it up and cuts it off. She dabs her mole.


There is a glass on the sink where she soaks her fiddled-out gabber. I have put my fingers in it. In her mouth, on her tongue, there are bumps that make maps. That tongue is a sesquisquare—a biquintile. It makes a locomotive. In her holes, there are some gums. Way behind, there is silver and it chimes and it clanks our forks banging around in the back. There are metals. She is loud. There are sharp smells.

I have teeth to lose. I have took her teeth, worn them in. I have lost some teeth, put them beneath, betwixt my mattress. I have waited and nothing comes.


No coins and no bills. No fairies.


Pagan, says Gram. No Santa—he is of Satan.


I did not get pillow presents. I hid what fell. On my skin, I nicked Wicca spells.


Gram puts her partial plate in in the morning. In night, she takes pisses. I hear her up reading, hiding. I am slicing a node on my torso. Beneath go my bibles, my ologies, myths. She sees my lights on.


I nick.


I have laundered our linens. There are odors in her unders.


A knock is on the door. I make it dark.


You get to bed, she says.


I lie, I am.


The moon’s yellow blinds me through the blinds.


Gypsies, they do not go knocking on doors. They do not go knocking on wood. They do not go rapping on glass, or tut-tutting. Mystics, they have birthdays, they have big rings, their wrists bemetaled. Mystics wear tangled hair in braids.


Gram says, Rat nest locks.


With the kitchen scissors, she cuts my hair clean off.


Now I look crooked.


Gram, she cut her hair to her ears when she chose the Truth. I want long hair, braids that coil and spring, long pigtails hennaed, unbrushed. I dig my locks out of the garbage, saved for Sabbats.


I go to the woods sometimes. I go to the trees sometimes and lean. I read my Liber Linteus that tells me when trees sponged up my full mooniness and made me go deeply, wild and unwell. I lean on the tree and touch my fingers together. I take my fingernails to my belly and open up a nick and push down harder on the parts that are hairier. I do as I should not. Sometimes, I scare myself by those trees.


Oh, Jehovah.


Oh, the doorbells are what I would rather ring. Do you like for no names to knock at your place? This is why we are ding-dongs. They hate us. This is why.


Cults, they say of the coven.


I do not, in school, like how I must sit out. I do not like pageants where they all sing songs. Oh, to be alone on cold linoleum! Oh, to peer down the lane and through the gates and see cakes! Service disservices. The thrust of oak doors closing is always old, unwelcoming us.


The lion face knockers are what I would not knock. I do not wish to knuckle the oak. I do not like to look in the eyes of what we call the goats in the congregation, Goats, they do not know Jehovah.


Could we not leave them alone?


Listen—I am no pioneer. I have scrolls that show hemimoons crescent, waning and waxen. I have charts of the stars, the lists of the switches. I have not knocked since Sunday. I would not knock again. I will sing still, though, my un-ode.


Are you familiar with? I say to the families, the unholies.


I will render for them Armageddon. Listen. My heaven is in bed with my sect.

I will say no to the waters, to the tests. I will stay unbathed, take no baths. The baptism will not happen. I would sink.


Did they float in Massachusetts? Did they die, then? Oh, I would stay dirty, oily to reek of a conjuror, and aura.


I will say no to the elders. I will lie in bed on Sundays. I will stay in bed on Sabbats, my bibles surrounding.


Oh, to sleep in!


I would hide away from the doors with their deadlocks, curse the New World Translation.


Oh, to knock nevermore!


I have Ouija and tarocs, the Crowley. I turn a Celtic cross.


Jehovah is unhappy, says Grammie.


I flip the Devil, the Sun, reversed swords, a reversed wand. Spread spreads on my bedspread, spells, rapture. The smell is burntherbs. I chant verbatim verse.


Do you know what they did in Romania? Bohemia?


You have shut us out. You have told us no.


We go back to our vehicles. Saturdays full of no-one theres and not-homes.

She boils the water, Gram does. I have seen her pluck. The potions she has in bottles, her powders make her look less witchish. Concealer on her moles pat and click compacts blare silver mirror and she can see where she should use some rouge where there is pallor. Her perfume blooms reeky. She is saggy. She is leaky leaving stains at the crook of her and on the ottoman, on the couch. I have done the dirty linens. I have laundered. 


I have seen her bleed like me. I found it between and looked for a rag, for a stopper, a tourniquette, something. I did not go see a doctor.


No doctors, no blood.


I went to the trees. I scare myself there in those woods.


The spring stings me dizzier, ill with the whiles, the charms, incantations, the bewitchment, the chants, the charts, the jinxing, the hexing, the vex conjuration, the go, the tour, enravishments rumble, the lure, the lore, the rapturous canon, the sacrosanct ascendants, the aspects, the cardinal Ariens, Cancerians, the Librans. Listen. I am saying of zodiacal conjunctions, the Vedic, the Venusian, the modes and the moons, numerologic, ephemeris, descendants, decans, orbs, horary, nakshatras, grand crosses, squares, and M. coeli. I am moved by mutables. I am not without ruinous runes, fixeds, triplicities and trines, rods and wands, transits and querents, discs and pips. I would not stop at progressions, part of fortunes, divinations, cartomancy and diviners, retrogrades, the page, the signifiers. 


What is the wish but to have?




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Elizabeth Mikesch


Elizabeth Mikesch has contributed to Unsaid and The Collagist.


This story was originally published in Issue 3 of The Literarian.