Amulet, and one more by Jo Bratten


Poetry by Jo Bratten


In these times we tighten, fasten locks

like lips, stockpile pills, believe

our own haptic power to summon

the fever-gods, draw blood to rub

across the lintel, into apotropaic

scratches cut into doors and walls.

You touch me like a mezuzah, hang me

by your heart, an omamori, a scapular,

a locketed caul; hold me on your lips

a cicada of jade, in your pocket like

a hare’s foot, a whelk’s shell; I circle

you like hag stones, word you a breverl:

the skies are quieter, clean; a blackbird

pauses, tilts her head, builds a nest.

Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 310

We’re all maids in a tower now (I’ll be

Petrosinella – like Rapunzel but

empowered, with a handful of magic

acorns), locked inside four walls, unwashing

our hair, unshaving our armpits and legs,

loosening the casement once a day

to throw bits of old bread to bemused birds,

baking things we don’t intend to share.

Men lurk meaningfully outside, sighing

for a woman’s touch; they fret their guitars,

scan their plague poems below our windows,

explain how the two-metre rule doesn’t mean

we’re not allowed to talk. Please, they beg.

Inside we sharpen scissors, cut our hair.

11 September 2020