The Persecution of Witches

Tell me what ‘legitimate’ means—
how much proof do I need
to convince you
that blood is blood
and bruises are bruises?
Why is my voice a casualty
of violence you won’t examine?

Did I say no?
Was I drunk?
What was I wearing?
A better question:
why is my body
not my body?

Here is the old dilemma:
if you weigh me with stones
and I drown, I am not a witch—
but if I float, I am. Tell me:
how cold are the rivers
in Danvers, Ipswich, and Salem?
Somewhere, Bridget Bishop
is still wearing red, still making
people uncomfortable—
the wolves are always waiting
for the bones of the accused.

Here is the new dilemma:
Yes, I was drunk,
and no, I wasn’t asking for it—
now I am carrying
a mattress as my cross
for someone else’s sin,
and I have to ask permission
from a man to terminate
what’s mine—because he
gets to require consent
when I am not afforded
the same privilege.

‘Legitimate’ is a witch’s mark
for the new age, a snare
of blame defined
by the man who holds it,
and this is the burden
of being the victim:
alive until persuaded dead.
There are infinite ways
to drown, many without water.

(Editors’ Note: “The Persecution of Witches” is read by Erika Ensign in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 11B.)

Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word–nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. She is always scribbling on napkins, closing her eyes while crossing the street, and singing along to songs at the grocery store. When she isn’t word–wrangling, you can find her cooking, baking, hanging out in parking lots, or pretending to be a mermaid. She’s currently reviewing television shows for Blastoff Comics. These have included Agent Carter, The Flash, and Supergirl. She’s on Twitter as @alwayscoffee, and you can also read her blog at

Ali is also an occasional Companion to the Doctor.

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