The evil eye is when someone you love
looks at you but they aren’t there.
My mother is now a Disney villain;
the sun has become an insult. She should
be fitted with a blood-black velvet cape.
Pale blue eyes in a hard-set face stare out
from a levered hospital bed. If she opened
those pursed lips now, I would reach down
her throat and rip out whatever is gnawing
at her from the inside with teeth
as sharp and rotten as broken promises.
I want to scatter crumbs of pure white salt,
make the sign that will ward off the glutton
that eats her into disorder. A creature has beetled
into her mind, burrowed deep fathoms
into her marrow and flits around twilight recesses
on brittle wings. It got in after a click
of bare wet twigs on a thin glass window,
thorny fingers beckoning toward the night.
I can’t unsee the bone-etched handprint
on my mother’s back, I know can’t recover
every drop drained but I can’t stop trying, either.
I must touch my trembling fingers to my eyelids,
my lips, the pit of my stomach and both
chambers of my heart in the right order,
throw some of that salt in a fire and smoke
the evil out. I will leave vases of flowers
that look like purple clover and hope
it won’t notice their blooms hold garlic seeds.
I will steal the greyscale kaleidoscope
she uses to see, give up every silver coin
I have to fashion an amulet of doctors and nurses.
I will whisper prayers to protect us both.
Now I have learned about creatures that lurk
in the dark, I can’t ever unknow them,
their leaden shapes. Wizened fingers grip my throat:
I know before I kill this wraith, before I see
my Mum again, I must look them both in the eye.
Zoe Mitchell is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in a number of magazines including The Rialto, The London Magazine and The Moth. She graduated from the University of Chichester with an MA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Distinction and the Kate Betts Memorial Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, examining witches in women’s poetry. In 2018, she was joint winner of the Indigo-First Collection Competition and her first collection, Hag, was published with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.