“Curio Collector” by Bethany Powell

“Curio Collector” by Bethany Powell

They are laying new railroad ties —
the smell of preservatives races up the road,
reminding me of my grandfather’s pantry.
Sometimes I wonder if I might end up in a jar,
even just a part of me —
a hand turned hairy, the thumbnail caught going claw.

Gran was maybe a witch, as Grandpa said,
but he was the one with eye of newt
and cauldron’s boiling.
He is gone, now, and his collection is put down in the cellar
out in the back burm,
where Uncle Randy won’t startle himself seeing things.

I sit in the spring sun
waiting at the tracks for the train to get by
but the heat raising the fresh fumes
gusts in my window, and the scent is too strong.

“Grandma, I’m a witch, too,” I said at three years old.
“No honey, that’s not what that means,” she said,
hand covering my paw.
The squirm of embarrassment I got later
still has not faded away, though I know I was just little.

The virus carries in the maternal lines.
When I was only five
I thought Grandpa kept Gran’s teeth in his cabinet.
They were wicked, and older than most wolves lived, he told me.
Now I know he would not have taken anything from her body.

But still, I wonder — did she get them pulled?
Should I also get dentures, and not worry about mine?

Bethany Powell‘s first published poem was inspired by her spinning hobby as a fiber artist. This one is loosely inspired by storm cellars and canning. In between, she’s published poems in magazines like Apex, Through the Gate, and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, often drawing on weird bits of country life. Find these at bethanypowell.com.