Poetry


The Slake

blood scarlet, spider black, a keening   in the wind,    nearer – I ready

tall poppies bend heavy, sway among grasses in a farther   meadow

 

their breath becomes my breath, I become   moon absolute

Requiescat, soft body waiting,   existence, a flame,   I burn

 

a burn like opium   night   windows reflect flames,   winter stars, ice

scintillations, frost glazes glass,   crimson silver the sorrow of weary   I strive

 

to keep the lull, the sate, the slake

wholly to regain the sky,   to rest in peace, adrift   holy








©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in The Slake August 2000


Contents  

The Slake 

If you hadn't gone Black Spells

Nocturna

Small Fires

My hands are composed of butterflies

Witch teeth Softly

November Sky

Wake

My Witch

Morningstar

Dignity

My Dead

Ghosts of You

Into Thin Air

A Dream Begins 

They


If you hadn't gone

Black Spells

If you hadn’t gone

I wouldn’t know the taste of salt,

the keenness of the memory of skin.

 

If you hadn’t gone

I wouldn’t know the hollowness of burnt days,

how the mind shrieks when its world burns,

how memories burn away like falling stars.

 

I wouldn’t know the still depth,

the blue evening shades in the emptiness of air

where you promised you’d stay

 

as the sea roars on

and swells away from me

to find you in the place

you’ve gone.


 









©Susan Zegarsky  

Published in Quail Bell Magazine November 5, 2022

First published in Coffin Bell Journal July 2020


black spells, wolf moon

a chill bitterness in voodoo wind

tonight I suffer of memories and devils

the otherworld reaches into ours, coursing

all I asked of them was vengeance



 





Gogyohka

©Susan Zegarsky  


Nocturna

I

When the dead tell me what the living do

my mind falls barren and bleak, I fall

as falls the witch in the wood in the cold of winter, shivering in this malice

behind her broken limbs and burned branches, sharp thorns of ribs

starved thin like the shriveled hearts of the men who put her there.

She, blamed and banished, and these words on her lips: send me home again.

 

 

 

II

In exile I write letters to ghosts, my wounds, words

grow heavy, buzzing with bees or a desert tongue, sweet

as pistachios dripping with honey; my friable seconds etched thinly

in long stretches of sorrow, the motes of pale autumn light recounted. In this bitter

life of mine how I want and ache, yet this I promise you:

with a heart that sings of stars I will love all dying things.

 









©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Fahmidan Journal Issue 13 2022


Small Fires

We were wild daughters;

 

we were wild, born like rare blossoms bejeweled in dew,

raising faces to the morning sky, so new

we pretended we were racing wolves and not mere deer

trembling under the bright moon, taking dares

to prove our bravery.  If you

 

remember this tale, you will save your life.

 

We were wild, daughters, caught in traps, taught

to bathe our pure bodies in sweetly-spiced oils, to paint

ourselves with crimson flowers, to hold honey and lime

in our mouths to sweeten our too-free tongues,

to still our howls.

 

Then we were still fresh echoes, unwearied,

and so trusted when they said we were just wild creatures made

to make the men whole; we believed we had magic inside of us

to mend them, the duty to feed

the avarices of men with the nobility of our existence, to feed

 

their false fires with our true burning. We were told

they needed us for this, it is an honor to give, and so

we let ourselves be tamed, and tamed,

we danced in crowns we didn’t see were thorns, we sacrificed

all that was inborn, the gift of us, all for our men.

 

 

Daughters, we burned ourselves for them,

we burned ourselves on pyres

making one great light

 

from all the small fires.









©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Quail Bell Magazine November 5, 2022


My hands are composed of butterflies

My hands are composed of butterflies

making it impossible to grasp the most important of things;

 

the most important of treasures slips

into the bright flittering spaces of breath left after flight

 

ever lost as light

beneath ephemeral wings.

 

 

My spine is the birch tree branching higher, twigs ever-thinner 

nerve tendrils creeping through the current of flesh;

 

the flares of fire encode this life, passed

into the rings of my body as a count of years with dimming sight

 

insubstantial as light

entwined to the earth.

 

 

I hide this extinction

 

behind my fluttering fingers.

If I could have held onto them

 

what worlds we could have lived in.









©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Grim & Gilded Issue 7 July 2022


Witch Teeth

Softly

witch nails in the floorboards

witch teeth in the tea

witch fists at the window glass

witch cold as the sea

 

witch smoke of memory

witch house broken stone

witch lad leaves witch lass

witch heart cold as bone

 

witch at the end of rope

witch poison in the brew

witch waiting on the empty path

witch wanting you

 

witch blood on the stairsteps

witch hair in the soap

witch tears in the bloody bath

witch without hope

 

witch nails in the floorboards

witch teeth in the tea

witch alone at the window glass

witch drowns in the sea

 








©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Quail Bell Magazine October 29, 2022


night meets 

blue mountain high in the clouds

fog and something else

creep soft footed through tall pines

often the dead are silent but

the dead never, ever sleep









©Susan Zegarsky  


November Sky

There is a story in the November sky,

story of a storm of indigo and grey, 

of the way

hallowed crows fly

while yellow leaves sail like pain through pearl snowlight

across violet space

 

and of the way

I cry

as if burned to ashes,

as if to prove to autumn

 

I knew her

in her garnet and gold, I was with her,

here with her.

 

On this earth I was alive, I was

alive.









©Susan Zegarsky 


Wake

 beneath the reaching hazel tree

a sweet witch's spell      we tangle in a summer charm, humming

in her shade then, we sleep


two of us, reaching, winding, wanting

windows wide to white light, curtains fly     our same wet German sky

on the down then, we sleep


winding dunes, far north of Amsterdam, we

flee with the wind, with the sea,   with the seconds      bitter cold, still colder

tomorrow then, we      wake







©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Coffin Bell Journal July 2020


My Witch

You were sleepwalking under a summer moon

and I followed.                                        

The air filled with violets

when you told me you were mine.

 

While I was burning pages I caught my feet on fire;

this traitorous world carries some of us away.

 

A thief of chances promised me the summer sun

and I followed

until I found all there is there

is sand and blood.

 

While I was burning futures I caught my eyes on fire;

this sacrifice for a mere glimpse of my fortune. 

 

The incessant tide caught me, faithless,

and I followed. I swallowed memories 

of your hair in the wind, of wild days entwined like daisies, the taste

of your smile like sunflowers.

 

I was burning my life and 

I was the fire the whole time.

 

I’m coming home.

You were my witch;


you taught me

there are a thousand moons

and all of them,

all of them mine.








©Susan Zegarsky  

First published in Prismatica Magazine Issue 6 Fall 2019 


Morningstar

Because you said so, 

I changed my name

to iron, plate, scrub, dig, deliver, shame.

 

At first I became a dead bird, hollow boned and lighter

and lighter with time,    

 

then, dried petals, a smudge of ash, barely visible, a

floating mote of dust, but then, then      an ember.

 

 

Flagrant, irreverent

particles of me began to flake, to lift skyward, to phosphoresce;

irrelevant fragments fell, fell

back to the earth.

 

I am coming for everything

you denied me.


I shine above the clouds, above the mountains, above the rain,

daughter of the morning,

my particles becoming waves, bearing terrible

blinding light.

 

Daughter of morning,

I am the brightest of the stars.

 

If you see me now, you will see the depth

your darkness buried you.

If you see me now, 

you will see no more.

 

Yet I’m still learning to forget

that you said it was I who was the adversary.

 

 

My name is now

birdsong, summer sunrise, morning star, blue sky

because I say so.








©Susan Zegarsky 

First published in Prismatica Magazine Issue 6 Fall 2019 

Published in Cauldron Anthology Issue X Cult Winter 2019


Dignity


I have wrapped myself in cinnamon and cedar.

I have filled my body with honey drunk by moonlight.

My feet are oiled, henna bloodstained with lotus blossoms, my hands swarm with bees

who whisper, sah, sah, the sound of the wind chasing the sand.

I have eaten gold and opened the eye while borne on the backs of blue scarabs

who summon me, Star of Egypt.

 

Recounting the days when I was bought and sold,

I throw your lies back to you from the scale, one by one by one,

until your ears ring with the songs of all women before me and after.

Floating like myrrh, I stretch my open bones to the bright stars,

to the immortals,

and now I am sure you can never touch me.

 

Knowing what I know now

I would never let you enslave me

as the price for beautiful days

not even to become the one of the gods

I am.

 

Though you tore out my tongue and stole my fingers, 

yours was a secret I would not keep.








Notes:

Sah, the ancient Egyptian word for mummy, means dignity, nobility.

The Egyptians called the circumpolar stars the immortals; they were always visible, always watching.

The Star of Egypt is Sirius.

I have eaten gold ~ monoatomic gold, the lost ancient secret that opened the third eye and gave the power

to travel between dimensions and control matter in this one.



©Susan Zegarsky 

First published in Cauldron Anthology Issue X Cult Winter 2019


My Dead

Mouth frantically wide, teeth of razor blades, saw blades,

in the night, in my bed, she chews my legs down to bloody raw meat

stark bones between feet and thighs

   until she shrieks at me    

what she speaks I do not know

as her jaws stretch and clack to bite,

   but it is pain.

 

Skin of shadow blue, veins showing through, gaunt and gut-wrenching, beautiful,

he lounges at my door, thumbing thin the cover of a leather journal in wasted hands;

his eyes, his eyes, he watches the hours of night and silence    

   slip into early morning,

he watches the dawn come until he fades with the stillness    

   into rays of pink and autumn,

until he whispers to me only,

   “Sorrow.”

 

My dead want vengeance for the ways I’ve made them 

   suffer.









©Susan Zegarsky

First published in The Horror Zine January 2020 


Ghosts of You

You left many ghosts

in my care.

 

You left the ghost of

your voice, your red

rage the thunder in my ears

that shakes me unexpectedly in the dark.

 

Your ghost comes out of my mouth

when I speak of myself.

Freak, you say, Failure;

those names like curses you spoke at me

always threatening something more.

 

You left many marks

engraved across my skin, still etched

on what is left of me, on what I haven’t yet peeled away

to erase your touch, your every touch, carvings, your marks

the ghosts of fangs

and venom.

 

You left ghosts of your hands,

bruised the throat of my hope

voiceless where you strangled it, wrung it

dry;

your handprints remain

where you twisted my gifts into grievances.

 

You left one of your ghosts

in the corner, in the space

where I always hid from your furies

until one the day you found me.

This ghost stands there still, still and hot,

all eyes,

the way you stood over me, towering, a disobeyed god.

 

Your boot prints appear and disappear here, laden ghosts

crushing down my bones to grime 

beneath your weight, your weight

somehow less heavy

than the fear tightly packed inside my chest.


You left many ghosts

in my care.

 

But these ghosts of you

are only half of what you were,

lesser tormentors,

only your echoes, your aftermath, the nightmare

of you,

not you,

 

and this is my relief.








©Susan Zegarsky

First published in The Horror Zine January 2020 


Into Thin Air

From a distant life,

from a thousand miles away,

I recall the innocence of your hands;

 

I remember the way you held onto me as if to keep from falling away,

the way you reached out for me as if to save yourself from drowning.

 

This is all I’ve saved of an uncorrupted time when I didn’t yet know

your feral malice would sear me into cinders of bone, one day

your fingers would stretch and ache to choke like tendrils of seaweed.

 

In silence I was nearly tangible

but as I spoke, you alone became immuring stone.

I recall the sharp rage of your hands born

 

to tear the voice from my throat, to bury me, erase me, snuff me

still, so I,

I dissipate into air, ash, autumn sky.

 

 

       life slips into the air – blades of yellow leaves rain through slips of perilous sun

       someone sleeps on the ground – something slips from my hands

       breath escapes, never caught again – they will know you did this

 

 

Soon only one of us will drown in thin air and still

love is not war no matter how bloody you make it.








©Susan Zegarsky

first published in Ink in Thirds Issue 9, February 2017 


A Dream Begins

A dream begins with a young girl who thinks herself a witch,

with long, moonlit nights and explorations of limitless futures, a trusting,

careful sounding so as to plumb the brightest one and shy from the misstep.

 

So young, she made you charms to protect you, to bring you peace, lived 

all for you, while you stole away her voice and her choices.

She held still when you sliced your words across her skin, while you

tore the music from the harp of her broken fingers, crushed her,

the one who never conceived a man could appear alive while in the lack

of a heart. Oh this child, she kept smiling when you hung her.

When you hung her, she smiled for you,

because you were all she loved, all the world

she knew.

 

A woman then, she raided past moments for the one small thing she’d missed, a change in the air,

a faltering, a feather, that sign of any

card unturned or omen glimpsed yet unheeded,

for the simple chance to say:  Freeze.

There, that. That is what I did not see. That is where I mistook,

where I took

the wrong path, where my gifts failed me, where I

fell.

 

 

Now that was long, long ago and all magic was sorely spent. Now the undone bones

of distant melodies poke through her threadbare skin, rattle empty of tune.

The eyes of a thousand birds peer from the weeds of her hair, these harbingers. Sobs

of sorry bees echo beneath her lips long sewn tight and in age alone she gropes toward the sea

with blind eyes, no longer smiling.

 

Or she is simply the witch you burned.

 

 

And then it ends. 

But the sweetest words are a dream begins.








©Susan Zegarsky

First published in Cauldron Anthology Issue X Cult Winter 2019 


They

strangers said

“your boy there needs a haircut”

“what a cute little boy you have”

and my father laughed with them, “that’s my girl”

and I was his shadow

 

so my mother sewed me sundresses

of flowers and flowers and flowers; bobby socks, barrettes, lace

and still they said

“what a sweet little boy”

 

adults laughed at my anger

called my tears cute

but it was shame, my shame

 

for what I was not

how  

they all tried to make me someone

I am not

 

 

 


©Susan Zegarsky

First published in Prismatica Issue 14 December 2020










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