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The Black House

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           It must have appeared suddenly, overnight,
           a dark pod simmering in the stony wasteland outside the city.
           No one knew.
           It would have passed unnoticed
           if not for the children, mouths stained sapphire
           and emerald
           and as cinnabar as a cardinal's breast,
           who ran back trilling of treats, of spring, of feathers.
           The magistrates set forth their welcome, bade the soldiers knock,
           but there was no answer. Annoyed,
           they commanded bailiffs to lift the black cell
           to hitch it to the jail-cart. To no avail. It was immoveable.
           Then priests, a stream of orange fire
           ants, seeking truth, blasphemy, sweets, each peering
           though the dried mossy slats.
           offering salvation, expiation, forgiveness, condemnation to
           the smell of sour milk

           (some, a very few, confessed their sins and wept)

           until at last they huffed away, damning her to the flames.
           The dust settled again, gilding the stones with
           the pollen from a thousand lilies. The sly sun cast
           a red net, pulled the coverlet of warmth from the land
           and when the night had spread her rustling blue grey skirts
           the witch stepped out
           rolled her house up into the palm of her hand
           and flew up to the moon.

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(02) 26 January 2014