Anna Cates



None would speak to me but the outcast from the village, worn and weary, scented of weed-lore and brimstone, always busy by the cauldron at her hearth. They said of me no heart . . .

But she simply warned me, hoary brows twitching, itching at her whiskered beauty mark, “Do not go down that long, long road from which there is no return.”

And yet, such restlessness to roam possessed me! The weird woman tried to wizen me: “Hold your head up!” But heaviness weighted me like a dark flower drooping into the gloom.

“Don’t wreck yourself,” said the hag. “Do you want to be like me?” I trod down into the forbidden valley, where tulips bloom black as midnight, their fragrance just as terrible. “Choose the day!” she said.

I dove into shadows, basked in the hollows, thrived by moonlight, shunning the garish glimmer of sunshine on still waters. Like a sea beast, big-eyed and tentacled, I longed for depths. I watched clouds drift over the moon upon a patch of magic mushrooms. I soaked up enchantment’s chill mist, unchecked as any beast, fanged as the damned.

Love—impossible, despised. I cursed and bristled like wild thistle . . .

I have found that the road, indeed, is long. None can return. Let’s not say, damned, but lost without a home.

Still, some days I see it—sunlight blazing over the mountains in the Land of the Living.


Author’s Comments: “Orc” began with my suspicion that contemporary audiences have become more interested in monsters than romantic figures. They like orcs and goblins, and troll dolls for their baby girls! So, as much as I love elves, I have embraced the orc in my poetry and fiction.

I love poetry in all its forms, eastern and western, free verse to the highly experimental. I chose the prose poem form for Orc due to its versatility. I could query it as either flash fiction or poetry and include it in a collection of either.

After its initial draft, Orc underwent only minor edits. I added the last line for a biblical allusion, to add resonance, and because many of my other poems include religious themes, including those in my collection “The Journey” (Resource Publications 2020). I perceive a connection between the details of world religions, all the magic and miracles, and the fantastical.

Anna Cates is a graduate of Indiana State University (M. English and PhD Curriculum & Instruction/English) and National University (MFA Creative Writing). Her first collections of poetry and fiction, The Meaning of Life and The Frog King, were published by Cyberwit Press, and her second poetry collection, The Darkroom, by Prolific Press. Her collection of previously published haibun, The Golem & the Nazi, recently appeared via Red Moon Press, and her collection of religion-themed poems, The Journey, via Resource Publications. She is a member of the Tower Poets of the Yellow Springs, Ohio area and currently resides in Wilmington with her two cats, Freddie and Fifi. She teaches college writing and literature and graduate education as an online instructor.

Editor’s Notes: Image credit—Female orc from Orc World of Warcraft Demon Goblin Fantasy (HiClipart)

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