I came to you to learn of spells.
Magics and enchantments and incantations.
To summon demons to do my bidding. To cast bones and learn of futures. Commune with spirits long dead and ask them of truths only they could know. With rites and rituals, I wished to forge blood packs with Bartleby and Mephistopheles. I wanted to trade in my school and my clothes and my flute for a bubbling cauldron and a cat who wore a coat of the thickest, darkest black.
I wanted the one I wanted to want me back.
So, in transaction for this knowledge, I was to be your servant. For many years I obeyed you. I mopped, I cleaned, I worked and danced to your whims.
And you told me nothing.
My youth turned to dust, my skin sagged, and my life ebbed away. Eyes once keen and sharp began to cloud a milky white. Hair once taut and golden became grey, like wire sunk into the pink of an exposed scalp. No longer was I a girl. I was a crone.
But I did not care.
I knew this to be a test, a lifetime in exchange for an eternity. You wished to know of my heart, my wants and my wills. I was safe, cradled in the knowledge that I would one day be rewarded for my thraldom. One day angels, intoxicated and charmed by my potions, would lay robes of eternal youth about my shoulders; they would break free of their God only to chain themselves to me.
Maybe I had to wait for you to fade away. Perhaps it is a mantle offered by the past to the new. Perhaps when you passed on, I would trap your soul in a tiny vial. Wear it about my neck. Maybe when you died, I would open your books as an Ijiraat would open a mind and plunder its memories. With engorged delight, I would pour over every wet and potent morsel.
But then you told me magic wasn’t real.
You looked at me with your watery eyes and told me what grimoire really meant. Not an ancient tome of power, the accumulated spells of a witch’s life written in her blood on parchment made of those sacrificed to the earth mother. Not this at all, but rather an old French word for grammar. A book of words.
You told me that in ancient Arabia, poets were feared warriors, not armed with steel or fist or nail but with satires. Poets would lead armies into the throng of war, hurling their words into battle, shoulder to shoulder with those hurling spears.
In your raspy voice, you talked of Inuits duelling one another with whip-like phrases and stanzas, the victor claiming the women and sons of his foe, the defeated suffering exile or death.
Your ancient face took on a look of awe as you told me the tale of Archelochus, a Greek wordsmith of such power that not only did his victim, a politician by the name of Lycambes, choose to hang himself but his three daughters chose this also.
You hawked and spat as you told me of witch’s pyres, not built of stakes, but with pages of pagan verse.
With a clawed finger, you beckoned me closer, your dry lips brushing my ear as you whispered knowingly of the rhyme maidens. Women, very much of the night, peddling not their virtue but instead verse and metre. Their patrons every bit as enveloped by rapture and euphoria as those given to the touchings of flesh.
My bones shook with rage. Veins blue and green stood erect under papery skin, joints given to arthritis ceased altogether, tears stained a clutched book. My words had done nothing. Scrawled not with magic but with biro, my words had not left the page. My stories did not have love or pain. I had not duelled an Inuit and all my poetry rhymed.