She stares at the bogini,
ethereal grace glimmering
off water and moss,
sets a wreath of myrtle,
rosemary, and rue on the stream’s edge.

She bows before the goddess — braids
herbs in her hair. Thyme and hemlock,
lavender. Thick fingers deftly
section and separate,
hair and leaves merge.

She steps out of her shift,
letting it drop to the ground.
Naked she rubs the sand and dirt
from the bank onto her skin,
painting on colors
of clay and loam,
putting on age with each
section of the cliff.
She kneels, her breasts
deep umber, her forehead amber,
her legs gray.

She lights four candles,
places them into a square.
North, East, South, West.
She is in the middle, traces a circle
in the sand with a stick,
the wreath and stream before her.

She has two souls like the strzyga
but does not prey on others.
She wraps silk around her breasts,
tightly binding them. Buttons the white
blouse and pulls on gray trousers.
Bialobóg walks with her. He is in her
image, as she is in his.

In the coffee shop she laughs,
makes grandiose gestures. Flirts
with waiters and waitresses. She runs
into the night, dancing with a stranger;
screams loudly and jumps giggling
onto the sidewalk.

Quick brushstrokes gain speed. She paints furious swathes of color
on canvas — flies to the next,
holds the first brush in her mouth while
groping for another. Scribbles a note,
runs to the burning tea. She sinks to the
linoleum and begins waving her hands,
shaking. Her skin itches with imaginary
ants. She rubs against the cabinets then
hits them with her body. Yanks open a drawer, grabs a knife, gashes her skin.

Lays on the wooden floor monotonously
tapping her toes on the wall behind her,
her forehead touching cool panels.
Her mouth moves without speaking — shadows listen. Slowly places palms
down then moves into a crouch, bends
into an arch following routine. She falls
abrumptly crying, claws at her wrists,
bites her hands then is still again.

She whispers into the wind
and the goddess leaves.
The woman lets the candles burn,
places the wreath on the water —
it floats and then sinks,
drifting downwards. She stands.
Places both feet into
the cool stream and wades in.

She lays in bed not sleeping — unable
to awaken. She watches the clock
terrified. Her cheeks warm, comforted
by tears. She cannot hold the dagger.
Czarnobóg whispers to her and places
hands on her shoulder.

The topicke speak.

Chor-Hani: Witch/spell binder in gypsy tongue
Bogini: Goddess
Wreath of Rosemary, etc: bridal association
Strzyga: Slavic Vampire
Bialobóg: Part of Dual God, Guardian of Summer, Light Male aspect
Czarnobóg: Part Dual God, Darkness, Female aspect
Topicke: water spirit of those who have drowned.

[Kim Malinowski earned her B.A. from West Virginia University and her M.F.A. from American University. She is currently a student of The Writers Studio. Her work has appeared in Mythic Delirium, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Three Drops from a Cauldron, and others.]