A witch blankets herself in whispers of mysterious pine, studies midnight with ancient eyes glittering vigilant from barrow to bough. Some evenings, unable to sleep, her songs interrogate the darkness, punctuated with mothlight— sounds that escape a woman who has lost her house to war, husband to emphysema. She might emerge from the gloom on silent wings, a surge of feathers and starshine melting swift into wind. The witch’s lips are keen for shrews, ears sharp for field mice, for taunts aimed at the dead. When trees break into a sparkle of lark and cicada, she will fold herself into a hollow where she crafts charms against death, a jagged question about the taste of birdsongs, a new language for grief.
Only Now Do I See that the Wind has Always Been Full of Arrows
My grandmother’s house once stood her ground, looming black against her city block. The war blew through the kitchen, crashed against staircase and bone, against her shrunken body. She watched the city through thin windows—bicycles ripping across her lawn, a dirty game of kickball threatening the begonias.
The neighborhood knew all about her-- that mean Japanese lady, they said. Tough little witch. When that boy shot her front door with an arrow, she marched out to the porch, yanked it free, her tiny fists daring him to come take it back.
Memory gusts through us, invisible save for what we see in broken windows. My grandmother’s secret—that tiny prison in the Idaho badlands where winter raked cold teeth across her back, where chicken wire marked the perimeter of home. There is no place like a well-disguised scar.
I feared my grandmother, when I was a boy, that drafty mildew of her living room—at her funeral, my cousin insists she was the nicest lady in the world. We all agree that her house didn’t stand long enough, its guts spilling forth a cautious shadow when it finally fell.
-- Todd Kaneko currently live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches at Grand Valley State University. Todd has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. His work has appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, NANO Fiction, Southeast Review, Blackbird, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere.