by Sharon Ashton

First published in Alchemy Spoon, Issue 3 ‘Spell’ April 2021…

I tease it open, this crumple of paper loosed from my daughter’s clenched fist

that still holds enough of her heat to sear my heart and quicken its beat, forcing me

to breathe, just breathe, while the script reveals itself. Red-margined, turquoise-ruled,

inked in black, its heading WANTED BACK is twice underlined, and beneath,

in schoolgirl-neat print: Matching cherry lip gloss and varnish borrowed last term

Beaded top and skinny jeans Kate lent you for Sophie’s party (or £30 cash)

Jade’s blue stone slide (the one in the shape of a butterfly from Accessorize)

Four names follow: Sarah Dani Jade Kate, each penned with practiced flourishes,

and finally what I think looks like a chi rho, until I see a kiss crossed through.

And I know this is a potent spell, cast in looping words that even un-mouthed

can drag a young girl into young girls’ hell. And I know too, that for her

I would fly into their rooms as they slept, turn into boulders on their chests,

conjure boils for faces and necks, summon cellulite, spots and pus from piercings─

but what I do instead is burn the page, and in my head keep a list of their names.