The Suspect

the suspect

Especially during this time of year, I am drawn to the lore, history and fate of the so called Salem witches. During the 17th century in Colonial America, any woman who seemed odd, too intelligent, too talkative or simply striking with certain beauty marks and reddish hair, became suspect of practicing magic. This poem is the lament of a young woman who faces that possibility and is gifted ( or cursed) with visions, auburn hair and innate knowledge of an old country with Druid rites/spells/traditions.

The Suspect 

(Salem, 1691 ) 

A broken pitcher

on the hearth

and water spilled

across the wooden floor,


in its sudden

mirror I see

my pale countenance

and so much more


as flames leap

off the hawthorn log

and raw wool

waits to be spun.


I see a woman

on the hill

strung up for deeds

she’s never done.


The owl cloaked

in his tartan plumes


someone or something

in his call,


and I pray I’m not

the one seen

in the pool, heard

in the leaves of Fall.


I’ve hid my gift

of visions strange

and the autumn fire

in my hair

twisting and tucking

it beneath

a linen cap

with painstaking care.


Priest and prophet

have defined

this shade as a sign

of womanly sin;

but it’s the shade

of reddish broom

I say

that blossoms

in the hills of my kin


or the embers

of sun flickering

through the rafters

of shadow and loft


when evening settles

under the roof

of sky and cottages

on the croft.


In fear, I have strayed

from the crowd

of women gossiping

along the green,

kept away from cats

and gathered herbs

roots, kindling, and mushrooms



along with memories

of an ancient place

where we danced

inside a circle of stones.


The grass swabbed

our maiden feet

with dew,

the wind blew

sea and seal song

though our bones.


And in deep thought, I broke

a pitcher;

its water spilled

across the wooden floor —

so let me spill

into that distant time

becoming the girl

I was centuries



 I should mention the vision of a woman hanging on the hill refers to Gallows Hill where suspected witches were hung. Those condemned in Salem, Massachusetts, were not burned but died by rope; and in one known case, a man accused of practicing the craft, was stoned to death in an open field.



  1. Wendy,

    This poem shows such a spiritual presence.
    All the way through you united the subject
    and the reader. It is the close that ‘shakes
    my timbers’. As always when I read your work,
    I’m awed and grateful.



    • Thanks so much Sarah

      I am do glad you enjoyed the poem and ( as always) I deeply appreciate your kind words and continual interest in my work. It means so much!!

      Take care,


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