The Wild Witch Speaks

OR – How I want to be remembered

I come from several generations of mostly women — who may or may not be witches.

The youngest of four sisters, I grew up among aunts and great-aunts who were occasional role models and always sources of entertainment. My sisters and I welcomed ten more daughters into the next generation, although my father — one of five brothers himself — did eventually acquire two grandsons (including my own firstborn.)

By the time of my recent exhaustively celebrated 90th birthday, things had evened out a little: two nieces had had five sons (and no daughters) between them. The rest of that generation is a mixed bunch. Thirty-some of us gathered in Georgia not long ago to celebrate my own longevity and the life of my last remaining sister Helen, who died earlier this year at 95.

The night had cooled and frivolities settled down somewhat when my giant birthday cake was brought out. Son-in-law Paul, whose passions include all things culinary, creates these ten-pound wonders. I hope I was saying some thing profound for the moment, but in truth do not remember.

Profound or not, the moment was captured by my nephew Chris. A writer/poet/English teacher, Chris later found it reminded him of a piece by noted American poet Lucille Clifton. Photo and poem were thus framed and sent to me. Clifton (1936–2010) was a poet/writer/educator herself, and two-time Pulitzer finalist. I am proud to be in the same frame with her.

daughters by Lucille Clifton

woman who shines at the head

of my grandmother’s bed,

brilliant woman, i like to think

you whispered into her ear

instructions. i like to think

you are the oddness in us,

you are the arrow

that pierced our plain skin

and made us fancy women;

my wild witch gran, my magic mama,

and even these gaudy girls.

i like to think you gave us

extraordinary power and to

protect us, you became the name

we were cautioned to forget.

it is enough,

you must have murmured,

to remember that i was

and that you are. woman, i am

lucille, which stands for light,

daughter of thelma, daughter 

of georgia, daughter of

dazzling you.