Firebrands

by Sonya Taaffe


With a face like a gallows woodcut
and a book of twenty-two names,
your hanging ancestor
looks at me out of Hawthorne,
the minister who steepled his hands at Salem
and died with blood in his throat.
History chokes up its emblems like affliction,
pins and witch-cakes,
chalices, pentacles, prayers.
We walked the wharves among tourists and museums,
shadows cracked into granite and sea air.
The demons I brought to our marriage
rustle like bats in the eaves,
read Kreytman and Margolin af yidish,
accept no one's fealty but their own.

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Sonya Taaffe's short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Ghost Signs (Aqueduct Press), A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and in various anthologies including Spelling the Hours, An Alphabet of Embers, The Humanity of Monsters, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, and Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and two cats.

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