you invite a witch into your house.
We've all done it. And too late, you observe
the oblique and lightless eye, the hunger and the rage:
you note the little pouch of corpse-powder,
and the uneven breath.
“It's a skinwalker all right,” you think,
and your flesh creeps: your hair rises.
Stories come to mind. You wish they wouldn't.
Somehow you get the witch out of the house, but then
you have to deal with what's been left behind.
The first thing to remember is that witches,
having set themselves against time,
are uniquely vulnerable to it.
They grow old faster than we do,
and the half-life of a witch's curse
is twenty minutes.
So when in doubt, you can simply wait:
each day is like a year, each year is like a life.
Time brings to us each sun as a renewal of hope,
each moon as an opening flower. But each spells death
to your wretched hurrying witch. When in doubt – just wait.
The next to bear in mind is this:
the details matter to witches, not to us.
Because witches have set themselves against meaning,
they must work instead with forms and recipes.
St John's wort culled at the dark of the moon
and cut with a copper knife – for them, nothing else will do.
But for us in cleansing? Sage to burn, if we have it;
cut any time in any country. But in a pinch
dead grass will do. Or paper matches from a tavern book.
We are working with the meaning, not against.
Anything will do.
And finally, remember the very act
of asking in the witch, the act you so regret,
weakens them fatally.
Hospitality deals them a wound
they do not understand, but which
works backwards in their blood
and multiplies confusion:
any curse they leave behind
may well turn into blessing.