Sara June Woods’ poetry is like lightning; when it strikes, it scorches the earth.
Her novel-in-fragments, Sea-Witch, revels in the possibilities of prose poetry, a form that’s just as often not-poetry as it is a stirring reconfiguration of the lyric into something wild and new. It's also pushing into new territory as far as how a poet can present (and make a living from) her work. On her Patreon, she's offering readers an opportunity to read Sea-Witch as it's created, a magic spell at its first moment of utterance.
The Wanderer posts new poetry every Sunday. Submissions are free, and publication is paid. Send 5-10 poems to the editor at email@example.com.
SEA-WITCH, by Sara June Woods
Like everything, all of Sea-Witch contains her history. Every part of her has bits of what has come before. For example, Sea-Witch’s left leg is the same as that of Dog-Witch. That leg was out of reach to Sea-Witcheans for a great number of years. Sea-Witch has allowed us her body for living in, but there was a time in which she wasn’t sure about the her-ness of that leg, and for that reason alone kept it free of residents. Not for reasons of property, which is a concept that, like many other concepts, can’t hold together within Sea-Witch, but for reasons of body & consent. Dog-Witch, being maybe-dead after the fall of the nineteen, could not consent to her leg being occupied, even while it was a part of Sea-Witch’s person. On the day that Sea-Witch finally set fire to a dead fir tree as a ritual of mourning, she accepted that leg as her own & Sea-Witcheans came to the leg & created in it there are a sanctuary for the oldest and most desperate among us to live and rest on the beaches that could be found there. The skies there are full of stars that are visible at all hours & form constellations of welcome and refuge.
The Book of Meteor tells us Dog-Witch is a sense of purpose. It tells us of how ze came from the sky as fire and evaporated a great deal of water, creating land. It tells us of hir cooling & descent again into the water to struggle against the violent reign of the lava-wielding bears in the world of airless faces. It tells us how ze brought lava to new uses, the foremost of which is formation, including the formation of hir nineteen sisters, who were the first to be formed in lava, as I would later be. The first of hir sisters to be formed was called Deeps-Witch & shortly after came Dirt-Witch & Bread-Witch. Less-Held-Witch stood from the sand next, & pulled with her the twins God-Witch & Airless-Face-Witch. A passage missing from some later translations of the Book tells us Dog-Witch came to these sisters then on the land, hir tail & ears raised, excited to no longer be alone. Ze lay hir chin on them one by one, naming each as hir love, hir sibling, hir comrade & hir companion. The other sisters formed soon after, the order is not fully documented. It is written that angry bears soon came & lined the coast, watching Dog-Witch & hir glorious creation take shape from the ruins of their fallen empire. Bear-parents stroked the shoulders & heads of their furry children saying to them, The time will come when we can build ourselves up again.
A beautiful space opened up in the earth in which many events took place. A necessary part of formation, besides lava, is noticing. Less-Held-Witch began her noticing here in this space, where she was attending a class on the ghosts who animate fire. It was in this beautiful space where she first noticed the curve of Glass-Witch's neck as she sat against the wall, ignoring the lecture to draw round sigils on the white spaces of her purple tennis shoes. It was in this space that the Book of Meteor tells us Less-Held-Witch hid herself in the hood of her sweatshirt, looking down at her own shoes (brown, soft) to avoid Glass-Witch's gaze.
I know from my own formation that noticing has a heaviness to it that follows you. It sits in your chest & shoulders. The object of your noticing becomes transformed entirely in your mind, becomes a thing to worship. You become transformed as well. The wholeness of who you were forms into a halfness of what you could become.
Sea-Witch can go for long periods of time without eating. She emits a specific light & temperature. Sea-Witch is a glittering cascade of water that has frozen in place exactly to be lived in but accidentally ended up capable of true emotion. Sea-Witch is precious & needs to be held. She gets cold like all living creatures.
The Book of Meteor says that true to her name, Death-Witch died young, against her will. She was known by few, and mourned long by those who knew her. She was survived by her best friend, a nameless cat who went on to lead a full life for many years after.
The circumstances surrounding Death-Witch's death are that she was alone on a road, & a person saw what she looked like & decided to kill her. I guess that's all it takes. There is a lot of anger in the world, & sometimes I think I feel all of it at once when I think about what happened to little Death-Witch.