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Photo: Pixabay

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Painting by Josie ElBiry, acrylic on canvas, 2017

Of late, everything happens on short notice. Alarms go off as car bombs. Coffee percolates before dawn, and I only have a moment of silence in the wee hours before the fog rolls in - from tip-toe to rumble roar - and deposits cement in my lap, oozing over my hands, over the cat. I wish I had an oil lamp and could dampen its sputter so I could stare at it, put my nose on the glass and make the rest of the world fade to black, illuminate only my cheeks and my chin and be a floating face with a thin, rubber string and no body, no stomach, no heartbeat, no bones. A current of breath streams in through my mouth and bleeds out to dissipate in the raw, open air, a no-place of stars and silence, a nowhere gap absorbed into time, catapulted around swirling voids, culminating in a pin-point, a pupil, a twitching neuron. …

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Photo by Ybrayym Esenov on Unsplash

Burning arches,
Form doors to caverns
Spilling out molten sins,
And water,
Which boils into needles,
And skins my hands to brittle tendons.
I see the scorch rays
Move nitrogen vapor
Like a mirage in the desert.

Embers fly around,
The tiny ones
Land on my corneas,
It must be happening to the others
Because I can hear people screaming.
Muffled screams,
Like I’m in a car wreck,
And the fireman is banging on the window
As I sink into the tar.

The sky above morphs,
From blistered holocaust,
To green, breezy lawns,
And sprinklers,
Kids playing under lush, cool trees.
From the ground, looking up,
Hell leaves a tiny, punishing window cracked,
So I must glimpse,
What could have been. …

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Photo by Kathy Marsh on Unsplash

The house is of old rafters and heavy, oaken doors, spun of our dreams, of hammers gentle as thread. It once had a chakra with a grounding bell.

Air electric swipes my breath, and up here, floating near the alabaster ceiling, a searing light pierces without clerestory or pane. This bright dungeon pulls me into the helix and I spiral higher.

Unearthly pain does not breathe. It muffles cells and stamps out the glimmer of wet, lovely eyes. My tongue floats up into my skull. A word not tenders there.

The hooded forms, they yank me, awaking with a start. A cold and thudding heartbeat opens the lone door, and then shuts it, and then opens it again. …

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Resting Witch Face - The Old Crone, Josie ElBiry: acrylic on canvas, June 2019

How was she to know
through hooded, foggy eyes
That age would come, not as a stream
but as a tempest
whirling and blowing
pounding cataracts bursting o’er head
snapping pines all the way down?


High Priestess


In the blink of an eye, immersed in the Earth

She’ll be a Great Mother

to which all of us will return.

Josie Elbiry, 2021

The Old Crone is the fifth of the Resting Witch Face paintings — a series of acrylic on canvas which explores the mundane, daily lives of witches and their stressful or ho-hum moments. …


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Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

The tenth month of the year
Celebration of Saturn, the Romans remembered
A god capable of generation and destruction, reminiscent of Shiva
In a two-week period of the same, hot December
My husband’s love appeared
as my father’s
faded out
Tick off twenty-seven hopes
Four years to the day of my father’s fade to dark
Waxed a baby anew, growing within, resplendant life, brilliant light
I saw dry land from heaven on a replenishing arc
Eyes become kaleidescopes
Kissing sand
Stars tumble, melting metal
From fiery fall’s grasp - red to ice, blustery to blue
The world as a blazing comet hurtles toward its shining culmination
Its chilly and darkest hour - a hopeful, newest new
Ice dams burst to red petals
Rains fall…

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Photo by Leo Broadbent on Unsplash

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee.

William Shakespeare

My mother’s impatience and fury have come home to roost after seventy years of trauma, twenty years of which was wrought onto me. Here in December, with my sister’s house alight in cheer, our mom hobbles on a walker. It’s a sliding, grating sound that drives us both back into our childhood.

“Oh, no. Here she comes.”

In mid-October, I left my husband and kids in Lebanon. I came to Texas, ten thousand miles away, to stay with Kathy (my younger sister) to help care for our mom, whose alcoholism and drug abuse have rendered her feeble. Of late, I realize I serve as a buffer to keep Kathy (who is often in a drunken rage) from killing her. It is a pitched stress. …

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Photo: Flicker

I burst and burn across a dry, muted plain
My wake is waves of agony and color
Each setting the fields alight
left and right

I ride toward the derecho
its black rage against the yellow plain compels me

These creations before me, the ones already wrought
are fence posts fallen flat in isolation
the flames rising behind me
are snuffed by the oblivion ahead

I’ve been naked for you so many times
dewy and bare at the breakfast table
chained and splayed and smacked up against the back door

Paths of rage and sorrow
laid bare for all to see
proof of sparked explosions with the lightning above
i zoomed up to god for a split second
but became invisible
As a gum wrapper on the wet pavement
something already chewed and spit out by others
now just ignored and underfoot.

Josie ElBiry, 2020

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Resting Witch Face-Ahhhh, by Josie ElBiry: acrylic on canvas, June 2019

Not all witches hover ‘round the chilly, damp moor
Cloaked against a hissing wind, frozen knuckles red

Celebrations in tropic climes, a scene remote and warm
Attracts covens in mirth, complete with tricks and work

A sunset finds the hot and weary tramping in the forests
Of buzzy bugs and dripping leaves, a path to fresh, cool pools

Strip away the linens and wares, slip into rocky, clear water

Ahhhh, she breathes and closes her eyes
A song of crickets and frogs

Josie Elbiry 2020

Ahhhh is the fourth of the Resting Witch Face paintings — a series of acrylic on canvas which explores the mundane, daily lives of witches and their stressful or ho-hum moments. …


Josie Elbiry

Creative nonfiction, short fiction and poetry. Thank you for reading.

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