Michele Evans

[eye-ee-ah] n. a mythological island said to be the home of the goddess-sorceress circe

i had no mama to show me round the kitchen
for she took her last breath as i took my first.

my skin honeyed and caramelized kept me in the big house,
away from my own, hidden from kin but not the ruthless one
always hovering above, a sunny master burning picked bolls.

mama didn’t leave me no book of recipes, no kitchen gadget
manual, nothing to help this latch-key girl survive a life
of lonely, no stick figure dirt diagrams showing what to do
when wild, hungry eyes lick their chops, ready to feast on me.

sometimes, i, young and alone, could feel her magic in my marrow
bones, invisible hands guiding me as i drowned bitter collards in a pail
of ice water, before rolling their veined leaves into tight choke hold
bundles, cut and shredded like old greying moss hanging from a tree.

sometimes when i wielded her wooden staff in brews simmering
out of that old black cast iron cauldron set atop flames cackling,
her reflection appeared, patiently waiting to help me cradle
enough ham hock bones and field pickins to feed an entire army,
ravenous weary soldiers home from yet another battle.

sometimes the bubbling greens and animal limbs sent smoke signals,
an sos of sorts, leading platoons of predators, along a scented trail,
of breadcrumbs, charmed musical notes, through a dense wood
to my enchanted fortress, a sumptuous banquet table feast
set before them, where without hesitation, they devoured like pigs,
gorging and grunting “holy moly, this sure is some good chow.”

sometimes after plates licked clean, the sound from tamed bellies
injected with itis, a circadian snoring from the snouts of soldiers
lulled to a deep sleep in a sty of temporary shallow graves, granted me
security, permission to shut my eyes if only for a few brief moments.

this daily regimen worked well until it didn’t, until the day i felt
his hands not my mother’s wrapped around my slender waist
first and then over my mouth muzzling screams that followed.
there was no survival manual that day, no recipe, no spell, no trance to stop
that pig from feasting on the aroma coming from my copper pot.

nothing to stop him from injecting me with a different itis.
nothing to break the curse for mamas who birth half-sisters.


Michele Evans, a fifth-generation Washingtonian (D.C.), is a writer, high school English teacher, and adviser for her school's literary magazine, Unbound. Despite always wearing the color black, she exhibits a certain fondness for blueberries, blue hydrangeas, blues musicians, and Blue Mountain coffee. This 2023 Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the ASP Bulletin poetry contest has been published in Artemis Journal, Tangled Locks, The Write Launch, and elsewhere. purl, her debut collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2025. You can find her at or @awordsmithie on Instagram.