The Witch Unwinding

By Rachel Dotson -


We sit together in the garden, and watch the flowers come to life at our command. The petals open easily. The dogs patrol the borders for predators. Here we sit on beach chairs surrounded by a lushness and a beauty that only my mother can create. Here, she has managed to tame nature. Where the leaves tremble at her touch, and the branches bow low to her slightest request. Here, she has created a paradise so tightly strung, that you feel it vibrating like the g-string of a cello. Uniformed blades of grass marching perfectly in the wake of her tyranny.

We sit together on the small concrete porch, my bare feet scraped and bruised by tiny pebbles. She sips iced tea, and watches her nation with a modest pride. We are here to celebrate my transformation. We are here to revel in the successful transition from woman to woman. Her cottage home, my childhood home, watches my back through its windows. We have been silent for hours. That is how this spell works.

I want to tell her that my becoming was not easy. That I was obsessed with water, that I had drowned myself in river rocks. That my blood now flows with dirty, unfiltered sand. River weed has replaced my major veins. I want to tell her how I survived it, that in the end I glimmered in the sun and let crawdads swim through my hair. But she made her transformation long ago, when the rules had been different. When the river had not been an allowable form. Her coven learned from the bark and the branches, and still stays high up in the trees. I am guilty that her cauldron ran dry the day I crawled out of it.

It pains me to say it, but I admire other magical women more. In penance, I will sit with her here, and together we make the midday shadows dance. Here is where I tell her I am happy, but she is too distracted by her own unhappiness to believe it.

This is her confession.

I cannot pinpoint the moment that her magic went wrong. Perhaps it was the moment that my wings came in, and she saw that I was a crane and not a robin. I have to remind myself that her motherhood is not entirely about me.

Here I have a conversation with her about river moss and it’s beneficial properties.

“I am so proud of you for eating vegetables.” She says.

I glance at a bloated stomach, and hold back what I think is anger. I want to tell her that I remember her rollerblading over the fingers on my left hand, snapping the knuckles like twigs. It was an accident.

Instead, I tell her about love spells. That I was able to make a man who smells like lavender and sage.

“Be careful not to burn him all in one place.” She warns me.

I want to remind her of all her ashes. Guilty that the dogs have more patience for her now that I do.

Later in the evening she wants fruit.

Behind the shed, she has planted the blackberry and strawberry bushes I gave her. She put them here because they grew unruly and ruined the symmetry of the garden. We squeeze together between the shed wall and the leaves, blue paint chips falling down the back of my shirt. She eats the berries with a ferocity I have never seen before. Her fingers are bleeding purple.

When she tells me she loves me I know that she is honest. This I have never doubted.

Maybe when this is all over, she will have a calmness that not even my magic can provide for her.


Rachel Dotson is a current graduate student in the MFA program at Randolph College. Previous to her enrollment at Randolph she was awarded a Masters of Science in Clinical Counseling Psychology from Radford University. She currently lives in Radford Virginia, and enjoys spending the day at the river with her dog.

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