The Witch’s Eye

—Oxford, Kent Maynard

By the kitchen window,
        squinting at an old slide,
I glimpse my garden leaching white,
                copper sedum
                suddenly gone silver,
dead hydrangeas levitating
                        with December mist.
Off the Isis, fog twists in;
        when I turn the photo
                for more light, I see
Peter on the path, hesitant
                        beneath the green dint
                        of Cameroon’s sun.
He’s taken me to see Pa, a man
so old he’s buried ten children—worse luck,
        all three wives have also died—
                a man barefoot and
                wrapped in rags,
                slight, and slow to emerge
from his kitchen
steeped in soot from eighty years
        of drying corn,
        a family’s close talk over the fire.
Peter says, “Oh, he’s a witch,
                he has four eyes,” the off-hand glance
                that sees you dead.
In the slide, I find the bamboo screen
                built by Pa to shield his door.
He talked to us outside
                about long-gone rites
                        for disinterring the dead.
A granddaughter stirred fufu in a second house,
        her toddler peed beside the door;
                neither looked at me or Peter.
“No good will come,” Pa said,
        “from people staring at you and yours.”