The Persecution of Witches

Tell me what ‘legitimate’ means—
how much proof do I need
to convince you
that blood is blood
and bruises are bruises?
Why is my voice a casualty
of violence you won’t examine?

Did I say no?
Was I drunk?
What was I wearing?
A better question:
why is my body
not my body?

Here is the old dilemma:
if you weigh me with stones
and I drown, I am not a witch—
but if I float, I am. Tell me:
how cold are the rivers
in Danvers, Ipswich, and Salem?
Somewhere, Bridget Bishop
is still wearing red, still making
people uncomfortable—
the wolves are always waiting
for the bones of the accused.

Here is the new dilemma:
Yes, I was drunk,
and no, I wasn’t asking for it—
now I am carrying
a mattress as my cross
for someone else’s sin,
and I have to ask permission
from a man to terminate
what’s mine—because he
gets to require consent
when I am not afforded
the same privilege.

‘Legitimate’ is a witch’s mark
for the new age, a snare
of blame defined
by the man who holds it,
and this is the burden
of being the victim:
alive until persuaded dead.
There are infinite ways
to drown, many without water.

(Editors’ Note: “The Persecution of Witches” is read by Erika Ensign in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 11B.)


Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word-nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nightmare, Fireside, Strange Horizons, Mermaids Monthly, and Cicada magazines, as well as in The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. She has a poem forthcoming in Asimov’s. Her short fiction has appeared in Curtains, a flash fiction anthology. A geek to the core, she’s previously written TV show reviews for Blastoff Comics, as well as a few personal essays. Ali’s always scribbling on napkins, looking for magic in the world, and bursting into song. When she isn’t word-wrangling, she’s being a kitchen witch, hugging an animal, or pretending to be a mermaid. Follow her on Twitter as @alwayscoffee or subscribe to her TinyLetter. Four of her poems, including three for Uncanny, were Rhysling Award nominees.

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