Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

At the Witch’s Door

At first, it must have felt warm:
the cinnamon smell of the entry hall
and its pillows, softer than dough,
the golden beams, strung up with chicory,
and somewhere the sounds of cooking—
the clatter of spoon on stone, the cheer
of the lit match—like the sounds
their mother would make, years ago,
her hair a mist behind her, the heat
of the oven like a hand on the back.
And how they had waited for this,
all through the evergreen black
of the long trail, and even before:
that last winter, the ice veining
the windows, and the white weight
of the door, the sharp feel
in their stomachs, like the slice
of the sleds on the lake—how
they could spark, like fire. And
when spring had come on ugly legs
to stagger through the trees
and they’d stalked the starving
deer for hours in the forest
and raked up turnips from the ground,
still as the stillborn, the new wife
from the next village (always smelling
of milk, her hair like dull cream),
had closed the door on their hands.
And so they came here. And so
they were warm. And so the path
had circled back, like so many
breadcrumbs, to the tall woman
and the metal door, to hunger
and to hunger’s end.

Felicity Sheehy’s poems appear in the New Republic, the Yale Review, the Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for UK residents under thirty. In 2019, she was named one of Narrative’s 30 Under 30 Writers. Originally from Hudson Valley, New York, she is a PhD candidate at Cambridge University.