Witch Hair Stew

Grandma kept the witch hair

In a glass jar at the back

Of her spice rack in the kitchen.

On Saturdays,

She'd retrieve it and pluck a single strand

With a pair of silver tweezers.

‘Witches don’t like silver,’ she’d say,

‘Unless it’s coins.’


I’d watch her,

My elbows propped on her oak table,

My chin in my hands,

Bare toes swinging above the packed dirt floor.

‘Add a hair and have fine fayre,’ she’d say,

And slip the strand into the cooking pot.


The Witch Stew served us until Wednesday,

Though I never saw her add anything

But onions and that strand of hair.

‘No need for babbies to go t'bed hungry

Sucking on’t sheet corner,’ she’d say,

And serve up ladles brim-full with beef or lamb.


When Grandma died,

My mother put the jar in her coffin

Along with the silver tweezers.

‘To feed the hungry dead,’ my mother said,

And I cried because now there’d only be onion stew

On Saturdays.


February 2020



This poem came to me in a bit of a flash. I got an image of an old woman in a bit of a run down kitchen with a giant cooking pot on the stove. She was rummaging around amid a multitude of bottles sitting on a old spice rack. She pulled something right from the back and I caught a plimpse of the lable - WITCH HAIR.



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