A portrait of the witch at sixteen

Marian Rosarum

A portrait of the witch at sixteen

My sister learned to raise the dead when she was sixteen—
a number associated with story-shaped girls who tumble
into the underworld by caressing the length of a spindle
or by stealing the prizes from a fairy king’s table.
At sixteen, one can believe that it’s possible to live and die
and live again.

My sister plaits ash in her hair along with her ribbons, always
pink as fresh entrails, and lets the dead caress the nape of her neck
with their tomb-stale breath while she pretends not to shiver.

My sister specializes in restoring the unloved.
There is no wicked queen she cannot summon back from the pyre,
no monster who’d been unraveled, thread by red thread,
she cannot piece together from recollections of those who feared it.

My sister does not lead the dead to her
with a path of breadcrumbs or gold coins that began as bundles of straw.
Instead, she scatters heliotropes across the face of the cosmos
and they follow the turning faces of those small suns,
loyal and terrible as black dogs.

My sister catches their souls like sparrows in her hands
and whispers her psalms of forgiveness to them
in the shadowed places of the world. Her song is one of mercy
and her lullabies are the litanies of the sinners she keeps.


Marian Rosarum is a fairy tale author and poet. She is currently working towards her MFA at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Popular Fiction Program. Although she comes from a long line of Cuban exiles, she currently divides her time between Miami and Colorado. She is accompanied on her travels by a cat named Colonel Brandon and the not insubstantial host of fictional characters populating her imagination. She can be found blogging at marianrosarum.com

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