It is Spain. It is 1476 in the year of our
Lord. A condemned witch is being prepared for
the stake. She says to a friend, some years
younger than herself: Look, they pile the faggots
high! How they fear us, we who generate the action
of flames. Ah, the crowd gathers. Curiosity
draws them. Death is a cold number and the heat
of this death is strange to them. It is a new kind
of dying which comes once the art of life is learned.
Sister, one last request—for the child—do not lose
sight of him. I know he will be a good person,
creative and giving. I do not demand too much
for you are capable of my request. Your fears
are many: there is no need to fear, but you will learn
that for yourself. See how the crowd grows! Their
shapes form a city in the evening shadows. The chill
air pierces their flesh. Sister, read my journals,
then secure them. Their knowledge is for you alone.
When he is old enough, share them with him. Befriend
him. I know I do not overburden you for you have
a strength and a power you are not yet aware of. Hush!
They come for me. Let it soon be deepest night. I
desire these flames to burn daggers against the blackest
sky. Beware the crowd, for the heat draws them!
Gayle Lauradunn’s Reaching for Air was Finalist for Best First Book of Poetry (Texas Institute of Letters); her book-length persona poem All the Wild and Holy: a Life of Eunice Williams, 1696-1785, received Honorable Mention for the May Sarton Poetry Prize. Her third book will appear spring 2020. She received fellowships from Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Cummington Community of the Arts, and Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop.