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Candice Kelsey

Witch Doctor

My mother took us
to find a cure for my brothers’
foot worm and my fear
of kindergarten:

the witch doctor asked me to


I stood and stared out his window

imagining my fingers in the

Kowloon Bay and my little

body thundering off from Kai Tak

airport –

She smiled at the old man his

eyes rolled back like mahjong dice
his invocation to the spirits


My two brothers sat a

refuge of odd


A catch of duck feathers in

my mother’s hands as we

left she was at peace and I

was never the same.

She obeyed the witch doctor placing

one feather under each of our pillows.

My brothers dreamt of

catching snakes chasing

bats and never went

barefoot again.

I ordered my dolls to stand against the

wall while I traced their shapes with

that feather.

I rolled my eyes and wondered

who could hear the engine of

my desire thundering.

Little girls like me we squeeze the

soft right out of ourselves.

CANDICE KELSEY's debut book of poetry, Still I am Pushing, releases March 6th with Finishing Line Press. Her first nonfiction book explored adolescent identity in the age of social media and was recognized as an Top Ten Parenting Book in 2007. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. A finalist for Poetry Quarterly's Rebecca Lard Award, Candice’s creative nonfiction was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. She is an educator of 20 years' standing, devoted to working with young writers. An Ohio native, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

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