They wield brooms of tightly woven straw and spite,
pushing dust from the cobblestones,
clearing the path of dust, dirt, grit, weeds.
Skittery newts chitter in the crevices,
blinking against too-bright sun:
the self-righteousness of early mornings.
They dress in rags, dun and gray.
(Their rags are particularly clean.)
Their secret desire is to marry the stones,
become the loves of stone and brick,
become one with the fortress walls.
To be absorbed. Become mistresses of bricks.
Why do they all have such thin lips?
Not the better to bite with—
they bite nothing, they taste nothing. All is dust.
If you kissed one it would be like kissing rock.
No tongue will invade their dry and sour mouths.
With their best efforts, none shall penetrate their fortress.
What trembles behind their pressed lips?
A shout, a torrent of bile, their contempt.
All passion guided into prevention.
All lust channeled into a caress of stone,
into the force of their grip on
their brooms, their castle, their garden.
One frog, two reeds. One greedy
from the gulping of fruit from the tree.
She gorges but begrudges
even the starving the stone from her fruit.
Two reeds, lean, boiled; lean not from
purity or discipline, but burning from within.
They believe in their own purity, though.
Guarding against all transgressions, all sins,
begrudging all visitors the very sin of existence.
They burn with the fury of injustice.
Who dares disturb their universe?
They have sacrificed all, all, to keep us out.
These three witches—but who knows,
there may be hundreds more,
ghosts fading among the cypress trees,
hissing wishes rising to a shout: keep out! Keep out!
This is no place for you. This is our castle.
This is our home.
They’d rather see it sink into the ground from disuse,
see pockmarked stone, measled visages, crumble
than allow commoners to tread
across the threshold, than allow anyone
to violate all that they have guarded,
all that they have dedicated their lives to.
Mute, furious, they spend their lives
polishing cobblestones, the
path leading to a drawbridge they’ll
never let down, not for you, not for you.