Witchcraft Favors Women

William Doreski

Merlot in the rainy dusk.
From the café windows we watch
the streets relax and settle like flesh.

Parked cars conspire in colors
muted to mutual shades of violet.
Your life in South Africa lies

on the table between us, childhood
in Soweto, desperate schooling,
a job sorting diamonds, the stress

of traveling black through airports
where white security people
simmer with undetonated rage.

I admire your elaborate plaits,
your sculpted Picasso expression,
your heavy silver bracelet-watch.

As we talk, forces gather. You’re
the only black woman here,
a midwinter blossom to brave

natural and naturally hostile
elements outdoors and in.
I want to pour you a glass

of the most comforting wine,
the brand that fueled Orpheus
through a lifetime of singing

and into a decapitation
that monumentalized his talent
for all the ages to remember.

You laugh when I mention Orpheus,
so we discuss the pangs of witchcraft
that trouble traditional people,

the agony of the shaman
dreaming of inchoate forces
hidden by painted wooden masks.                         

We agree that modern masks hurt
more because cast in base metal,
and that witchcraft favors women

because it perverts the healing
that mothers exude like fragrance.
The rain simpers in puddles

winking with lamplight. I hate
to go out in the weather, so pour
one more glass of merlot each,

hoping conversation washes
the wrack and debris of our lifetimes
downstream and out to sea.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene Staten College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.