The Derry Street Trials by Emma Simon

The Derry Street Trials

If she crooks a knowing smile your way
to draw out thoughts that itch within
then she’s a witch.

Scrutinise her dress. If it’s raggedy,
hem unstitched or wanton split too high,
then she’s a witch.

If you can see the bones of her
a jut of question marks, a lack of marrow,
then she’s a skinny witch.

They are the worst. Though many shape shift
disguise their witchy forms
in outsize black and formless grey

roll malicious intent, year after year
in thick fat, like the truffling pigs
they want to turn you into.

If you see such figures in the tented dark
laughing at the night while gathering its riches,
beware. They’re all likely witches.

Mark her hair, if there are silver streaks
– known as devil’s moonshine – it’s a sure sign
she’s an accomplished witch.

If she has no children. Or too many.
Leaves them a-bed while she slips out
to conjure coins from the beamy air,

or stays at home, bricked behind her walls
without a man to breathe life in her fire,
then she’s a witch

or as good as, by any rational reckoning.
Watch her by the water,
how she skirts the millpond.


Emma Simon has had poems published in a number of magazines, including Obsessed With Pipework, Bare Fiction and The Interpreter’s House. She was an active member of Jo Bell’s 52 project, and this year is one of the poets selected for the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme. She lives in London where she also works as a freelance copywriter.

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