“Mud Witch,” an incantation for Haunted Passages by Michael Sikkema

Haunted Passages: Michael Sikkema

Mud Witch

this pit’s everything a mouth of sky

Mud Witch dreams me in her teeth

it all vibrates wrong when the pain stops

this pit’s everything gathers worms

moles beetles so I don’t starve I cup

mud it all started with the sinkholes

we lost the whole golf course Mud Witch

grabs the rope over my pit leans out

grips her mound with one hand and pisses

down on me the stars change faster than

they should she says a pit’s a walking

tunnel everything a mouth

I thought Mud Witch’s hands around

my throat while I had to milk her

into a half gallon mason jar stars so fast

it all vibrates wrong the milk greenish

howling dogs collapse the distance

it all started with the sinkholes the baptist

church was gone this pit’s birthing me

I guess I could make a little nest to fuck

some leaves I have to bleed

some more she drops in

a rake head I press it to my chest and drag

she says the pit’s just walking

I lick the shadow of the rope she thinks

me with her teeth faster stars I hear with

the dogs sucking down into the mud

Mud Witch names me as the sun rises

names me cup-spit rat-fish waste-face

throws in a ladder to set me free maybe

now that I have a name I step up

the rung breaks it turns to mud

the rung’s on fire gone it turns to water

the rung grows a mouth and names me back

it takes all day it all started with a

tunnel that fell on the golf course near

the baptist church I thought her hands

gripping my spine planting me

she leans out and waters me in my pit

I’m born when she picks me my legs have

fused gelatinous skin my feet a spike

my spine cracks I’m a scorpion I sting myself

in the back of the head if Mud Witch

would toss in a fresh friend

I’d have somewhere to keep my songs

moles worms a shrew the worms are

the worms are barking when the rain cleans

me too far Mud Witch throws in rocks throws

in burlap doll parts that erase my body as

they land in the pit hands feet legs splash in

the mud-suck and I’m mostly

gone floating voice it all started when I had

to bleed more in the baptist church

the walking tunnel made a little nest

a mouth of sky is everything a pit a half

gallon mason jar thinks me in her thighs

it all started with

the sinkholes I was going to get

to the bottom of it now here I am in

full dark Mud Witch tossed down her

eyeball the left one I think it burst into flames

shed light on a tunnel forming right

beside me I took two steps towards

it and saw platters of food inside

fried chicken fresh fruit jugs

of water my ankles

exploded tiny bits of bone everywhere

pain like air around me I collapsed

the tunnel was gone then I looked back

at Mud Witch’s eye still glowing it had

turned into a silver sphere it split open

and out came hundreds of tiny Mud Witches

they crawled all over me biting pinching

hissing singing I tossed one into my mouth

felt the bones crack and everything went

white I was sitting at my breakfast table

clean dry hungry my kids were playing

cars and dolls and stuffies I had coffee

hot still in the blue mug a plate of eggs

and bacon steaming the light outside

pure summer I grabbed a handful of eggs

shoved them in my mouth got under

the table hugged my daughter Anna but

she got smaller as my arms tightened

she turned into a grasshopper smaller than

a penny she jumped into

the keyhole of the front

door I chased after opened the door

and it all started with the sinkholes

this walking pit fell on everyone I had

to eat them I’m all that’s left Mud Witch

comes to the edge again fucks herself with

a femur human probably O’Connor

the hardware guy she bled into my pit

I remember to make the roses grow the roses

hundreds of colors they covered me thorns

ripping as they grew filled the pit blocked

the light and Mud Witch whistled them into

snakes cackled as I screamed then

they were skins just skins their bellies covered

in words a list of everyone I’d ever hurt

this pit’s everything it started growing in

the baptist church when we lost the golf course

that walking tunnel ate a lot of people

for a long time a thick nothingness

having grown used to formlessness I woke

to Mud Witch sitting in a chair across from

me her feet up on a wooden stool her

skirt hiked up high and one

of her legs was a huge dildo bulging rubber

veins I was tied to my chair with

someone’s tendons I was so thirsty it

started raining and I opened my mouth leaned

back Mud Witch

stood then grabbed my hair pulled my

head back and spat into my mouth “every

little bit helps,” she said for a while I could

see through crows so I did I couldn’t

steer we flew out over top of my

pit in loops tree tops I could see the city in

the distance just lights really I looked

down or the crow did I saw rows and rows

of pits like mine Mud Witch was standing

over every one these were houses once

an ice cream place a liquer store that

hole was a coffee shop that one a muffler

place each pit had someone inside I thought

I’d eaten them all when the food ran

out after I had the fevers it’s hard to

remember we all just did what we

had to it started with the sinkholes

I was counting frogs for the state the survey

the ground shook the whole golf course

caved I was safe on the edge I saw all

the bones the bodies from before the stories

were true I learned the mass grave

was real from my crow I saw the bones

fuse and flesh out all of them into one

body into Mud Witch the size of a field

some flowers a tree growing through then

another she opened her mouth and shouted

a tunnel into the cloud cover it twisted

through itself pulled in water and trout from

the stream to the south pulled in burning

garbage from someone’s backyard in

the north the shingles of a house a mile

east a small flock of wild turkeys from

the west it all twisted and spun turned into

a dull light fell down into her mouth

her arms fused to her sides legs fused together

her whole body sealed over with scales except

her head Mud Witch’s head with the body

of a snake now 300 yards long going slowly

towards the lake then finally circling it finally

submerging she inched across her eyes

skin dulled she scraped her skin on

the rocks her face slowly pushed through her face

split down the middle drug her body

behind it she pulled all the way through her

old skin inside out behind her all the birds

fell from the sky mine too I woke up in the pit

it all started in the pit here where I’m becoming

the fevers help it all gets clearer I can hear

their blood at all the pulse points throat’s the easiest

you’ll never starve if your mouth reaches some

part of your body but the others they taste better

it all started at the golf course I was safe

just fine then I woke up with the fevers so thirsty

I saw those kids all those throats to be fair one

called me zombie weeks ago it was already happening

right around the time of the sinkholes they called

me zombie then their little throats burst I burst

their little throats for christ sakes we eat

the brain last you can’t bite through a skull

I wasn’t a zombie just had the fevers I was counting

frogs thirsty for weeks I woke up in the pit

splayed out tied to stakes in the ground

Mud Witch was standing over me I could hear

the blood in her throat things vibrate right

when I’m fed on time I started eating the others

doing the world a favor those kids

were the first normal ones then I was in the pit

Mud Witch has built a door up top it’s dark all

the time time changed I guess the speed mostly

must be night now stars falling no

fireflies land on my ribs burn through

embers maybe it hurts

right and makes these little tunnels I pull away

the meat the rib bones and see a pair

of wings hanging inside me I try to fly

but they just rattle and buzz till the crows come

confuse them for food and pick them clean

Michael Sikkema is the author of books, chapbooks, and multiple collaborations all knowable through search engines. He hopes you ask your library to add them to their collection. His current dream is to collaborate with an illustrator on a graphic novel project. He enjoys correspondence at Michael.sikkema@gmail.com.

Image: swampwitch.bandcamp.com

Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram and YouTube.