The postman left the first bundle by the gate
in your fourth month – red crepe, bound in rope.
Inside, a sheaf of rue. Witchbane.
When the old landlady came, she helped you pin it
above the front door, told you of the local custom.
Remarked on its salves: hysteria, a cramping womb.
The sickness had ungripped by then – you were eating,
walking the grounds. Had cleared the brambles
from the old well, traced the gouges on its concrete lid.
Another package was found, just outside the boundary.
Rosemary, with a handwritten note: remember.
You crumbled it inside your pillowcase on impulse –
you’d not been sleeping; kept a black candle lit
in case you woke again at the open window,
reaching out. The quickening was vicious by then,
all fists and elbows after sundown. You made tea
from the blend the neighbours had left
to welcome you back – blue cohosh, liquorice,
pennyroyal. Noticed the pin-drop quiet cloaking
the house, the cats lined up at the end of the path;
how the birds left the berries on the knuckled yews.
Now the baby is here, silent in the next room.
Moonstone eyes swiveling at nothing. A small silk pouch
hangs from his basket: angelica root, marshmallow,
flax and rosebud. The men take shifts outside your door,
huddled and urgent. A word cuts through, clawing
at memory. You watch the well’s waiting mouth.
Lauren Mason is based in London, and currently studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at the Poetry School / Newcastle University.
“This was written on the fantastic ‘Frame, Shot, Scene, Sequence: Powering Poetry Through Film’ with John Challis, for an assignment on horror poetry. It was great to indulge my dark side with a Rosemary’s Baby-esque narrative! I drew inspiration from Robin Robertson and Louise Erdrich, as well as plenty of creepy movies.”