Witch Doctor

My mother took us
to find a cure for my brothers’
foot worm and my fear
of kindergarten:

the witch doctor asked me to stand.

I stood and stared
out his window imagining my fingers
in the Kowloon Bay and
my little body thundering off
from Kai Tak airport –

She smiled at the old man
his eyes rolled back like mahjong dice
his invocation to the spirits perhaps.

My two brothers sat
a refuge of odd symmetry.

A catch of duck feathers
in my mother’s hands as we left
she was at peace
and I was never the same.

She obeyed the witch doctor
placing one feather under each of our pillows.

My brothers dreamt of catching
snakes chasing bats and
never went barefoot again.

I ordered my dolls to stand
against the wall while I traced their shapes
with that feather.

I rolled my eyes and
wondered who could hear
the engine of my desire thundering.

Little girls like me
we squeeze the soft right out of ourselves.

Candice Kelsey ‘s debut book of poetry, Still I am Pushing, releases March 6th with Finishing Line Press. Her first nonfiction book explored adolescent identity in the age of social media and was recognized as an Amazon.com Top Ten Parenting Book in 2007. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. A finalist for Poetry Quarterly’s Rebecca Lard Award, Candice’s creative nonfiction was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. She is an educator of 20 years’ standing, devoted to working with young writers. An Ohio native, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Bill Wolak has just published his fifteenth book of poetry entitled The Nakedness Defense with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Harbinger Asylum, Baldhip Magazine, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Thirteen Ways Magazine, Phantom Kangaroo, and Flare Magazine.