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Jenny Doughty

The True Confessions of Isobel Gowdie, 1662

I shall go into a hare

With sorrow and sych and meickle care;

And I shall go in the Devil’s name,

Ay while I come home again.

Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie’s spell to transform into a hare

Ye should have seen the eyes stand out in the ministers’ faces

half beside themselves wi’ fright, half full of lust when they dragged me

to the Tolbooth, stripped me naked, shaved me, pricked me all over

wi’ their needles, looking for the Devil’s mark, till I passed out

wi’ shame and pain until strength grew in me as my anger rose

like hellfire. Am I, a woman, to be treated like a thing?

I laughed in their faces, said, “Aye there were nights when we flew

on charmed windlestraws, called out ‘horse and hattock in the Devil’s name’,

flicked elf-shot with our fingers and cried out with laughter to see

Minister Forbes turn his head wild-eyed, afeard, he who stood

like a pillar o’ black marble in the kirk, prissy mouthed, canting

agin witches, and we sat like noddies wi’ our eyes wide open

and our tongues still, as if we knew nought.” They gaped and I held them

with my eyes, all the while my mind rode horseback to make stories

of how I feasted with the fairies. I watched that sober gentry

chew the tale like barnyard dogs with bones. In my hunger – believe me

there’s scant food in the Tolbooth - I told them how I transformed

to the likeness of a crow to sneak in houses and steal food

and ale. I am a cottar’s wife and I know how to boil

and bake and brew. It’s not so far from my pantry to pretend

to theirs. I piled it on good with horrors – told them about

a child’s body I dug up to make a spell to spoil their crops,

how I burned clay poppets I made of the laird’s sons to bring them

harm, and swived the Devil guised as a dark man, his ice-cold prick.

I gave myself sisters in the craft, gave them some women’s names,

filled myself with power to watch these black-clad men, the nearest

to the Devil I have come, scurry like mice from a belled cat.

May fear wither their privy members when they look at women

and wonder if in the moonlight their ain good wives dance naked

and fornicate with evil. They crush us because they fear us,

our power of life and death, their softness in our arms, memories

of being a helpless babe when we could strip and wash them, rule them

with a swat on the bum when they displeased us. When I am gone –

for I shall be a dead woman by and by when my tales are done -

these men can live in fear of the Devil’s power in women.

Meanwhile I’ll warm my bones at the fire of their attention.

A man comes on the radio…

I’m fourteen and I want

I want I don’t know what I want

but I’m too old for the Children’s Hour,

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin

and the transistor radio in our kitchen

tuned to the BBC Light Programme

plays An English Country Garden,

Workers Playtime, Housewives Choice,

and I’m fourteen, and I don’t know

what I want but it’s not that

so I feather-tune the knob below

the amber dial of the old valve radio

by my bed, pick up gabbles of languages

I don’t know

that buzz through its fretwork

until I land on Radio Luxembourg

hymns from the cathedral of rock and roll.

I’m restless, and here’s a raunchy

voice that tells me I don’t want ‘cause I’m sad and blue.

I just want to make love to you, baby,

and oh the little red rooster that twitches

between my legs crows for day and tells me

that’s what I want though I don’t know how

but he can tell by the way I twitch

and walk, know by the way I treat my man,

love me baby till the night train

and I want those loose lips -

to cover me and go where my hands go

and I will get some satisfaction.


Jenny Doughty is originally British but has lived in Maine since 2002. Her poems have appeared in, among others, The Aurorean, Sin Fronteras, Naugatuck River Review, Four Way Review, and several anthologies. Her first poetry collection, Sending Bette Davis to the Plumber, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2017.


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