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


The Slake

My hands are composed of butterflies

My Witch


November Sky



My Dead

Ghosts of You

Into Thin Air

A Dream Begins

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

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


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 July 2020

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


©Susan Zegarsky


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


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 one of the gods I am.

Though you tore out my tongue and stole my fingers, yours was a secret I would not keep.


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.

©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;

a void, silent, 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,


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


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


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

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