bruja at heart

‘magic is of the devil, and the devil is not invited into our home’. you remind us, your children, of this as my sister burns red candles and mixes her scented oils. i laugh. as if these things were magical. to spite you, my sister lights a black candle. ‘you are opening doors, inviting energies you don’t know how to handle’, you hiss, like a cat who is being threatened by the unknown.

you head back to the kitchen, where you resume boiling rosemary and herbs. the subtle, fresh, woody scent drifts throughout the apartment, almost warming it. you place the concoction in front of us. it is a soft shade of pink. ‘it’s the lemon. good for your immune system’, you explain, smiling. ‘i put some rosemary in a cup for you, by itself, so you can pour it over yourself in the shower. it cleanses away the bad spirits,’ you add.

i think your notebooks are one of your prized possessions. they are crammed with information about vegetables, fruits, clays, vitamins, herbs, oils, and their healing properties. you know what foods are good for the heart, what herbs alleviate colds, and what can make them worsen.

knowledge is power. you healed your own bleeding wound, with no scar to tell the tale. i still remember when i burned myself on my right elbow, and how you healed my burns. egg whites are useful–they help prevent scarring. my grandpa had skin cancer, and you sent him a package full of vitamins, clays, and herbs. he survived the cancer and he’s been healthy ever since. you remind me of this when you notice me taking ibuprofen or dayquil.

‘i don’t have any money, but in my will, i’ll make sure each of you gets a notebook’, you’ve joked.

my sister collects scented oils, lights candles, and draws the symbols she sees in her dreams in her notebooks. you’ve caught her, and you’ve told her that she is doing the devil’s work. we are catholics, and the priests warn against magic.

i laugh. it’s funny because you are magical, mother.

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naomi under the harvest moon

A small blackbird soared between the bare tree branches and landed on my left shoulder. The blackbird, Annikah, cawed and as it ruffled its feathers, its coat shifted into a pearlescent white. She’s great at camouflage–which is why I bought her. All students of witchcraft need a pet.
I had sent her off in search of the heart of amethyst. The heart of amethyst, a heart-shaped pastel purple stone that evokes peace, is the last ingredient I need to conjure my protection spell. I had been hiding for three months now in rural Grinnell. If they find me, they will do their best to change me. They will do their best to strip me from my magic.
I transport Annikah and I to a Louisiana home with tall, French windows–my mother’s old home. I walk along the porch and recalled my mother whistling to the sound of my neighbor’s pop music on her rocking chair. This rocking chair should suffice for the spell.
I sit on her rocking chair and sprinkled red sea salt around it while whispering the names of my enemies to the harvest moon, in hopes that she’ll hear me. They say that she listens to only those deserving of light in darkness.
From the rocking chair, I hear a loud thump on the roof. Maintain concentration, I tell myself. This is what you’ve been studying for.
On the wall adjacent to where I’m seated, the shadows change and I heard my heartbeat accelerate faster than the pitter-patter of rain. They’ve found me, they’ve found me.
“I know witches who’ve tried to do that protection spell. Lucky for me, it never works.” said the familiar voice.
I stand from the rocking chair and face my uninvited visitor, Donald Gines–my father. His silver-rimmed glasses reflected the moonlight, obscuring his eyes from my view. Did his deep skin always have so many folds? While rocking back and forth on his heels, his hands clasped behind his back, he examined the tattoo that adorned my collarbone. On my brown skin, the copper-ink outline of three roses glistened in the moonlight that shone through the windows. My father clucked his tongue. “That’s new. I don’t think your mother would’ve approved,” he remarked as he glanced at the rocking chair.
I crossed my arms. “You don’t know my mother.”
“Remember,” he said, as he walked to the window. “I knew her longer than you did.” He paused, and looked at the bare branches of the evergreen tree outside. As I watched him, I sprinkled red sea salt between us.
I rolled my eyes. “People don’t stay the same,” I said. “They change.”
“Then I guess you’re the exception,” he shot back. Gines clasped his hands together, and sighed. A silver ring with a sapphire stone softly squeezes his thumb. “Naomi, let’s make a deal. Come with me now, peacefully, and I’ll make sure that the Guardians don’t hurt you.”
I laughed.
“If you refuse this, they will come for you.”
“If you only came to warn me,” I began, “you’re wasting your time. I will not let you or the Guardians rid me of my powers because they are all I have left of my mother. You can tell them that I’m not afraid to face them.”
My father furrowed his eyebrows and scratched his graying mustache. His mustache, reminded me of an unkempt broom–frayed and stiff.
“I rather die on my feet than live on my knees*,” I said as I took a few steps back. I raised my left arm and clucked my tongue, and Annikah glided into the room. She landed on mother’s rocking chair.
“You’ve always been a warrior.” He rolled up the sleeves of his navy blazer as he whispered, “At least give me one last hug.”
I stared at him. He looked so different compared to what I remember. The image of his tailored navy suit and graying hairs stunned me all of a sudden–I hadn’t seen him in years. He didn’t look back at me. Instead, he examined his bronze cufflinks. I wonder if the Guardians gifted those to him.
I took a deep breath. “Okay.”
He shifted his gaze to me and smiled, raising his arms out to embrace me. As I wrapped my arms around him, I revelled in his warmth that juxtaposed the cool air of the house. I smelled his aftershave, a classic old spice, and a memory of the three of us engrossed me. He, my mother and I locked in an embrace one night on the couch. We were watching George Lopez and laughing together, eating Doritos. I remember father saying that he was funnier than George.
“I’m sorry,” my father whispered.
I felt a warm pulse on the area where he injected the needle. A thick liquid oozed through my veins, and as it overfilled the chambers in my heart, a rush of heat washed over me. I collapsed, and everything went white.

**This is what I wrote for the writing exercise, “Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird swooped down…”**

*quote by emiliano zapata.