by Marie Gethins

WE MET IN a craft class. Shared slim branches of green, fawn, mauve. Together we bent and shaped long switches. Coaxed into tight intertwine, they formed small platters. I wondered what to serve on them. Goat’s cheese and cherries. Stuffed grape leaves from the artisan booth in town. You smiled, told me how an uncle wove willows into living fences, used the trimmings for turf baskets, and attached leather straps. Later, heavy loads piled onto young backs, shoulders hunched and blistered in summer heat.

Wicca, wicca, wicca. Bend, bend, bend.

Orpheus played a willow lyre for Eurydice’s release from Hades’ ghost caves. To silence grief, King David hung his harp on the tree’s limbs. Celts wore a sprig to assuage loss, placed another beneath sleeping heads to clarify dreams. Lakeside, we chased each other, dodging between bowed curtains of silver-green. You tapped my shoulders with a fallen frond, quoted an ancient love spell. A gust. Leaves quaked and murmured.

Wicca, wicca, wicca. Whisht, whisht, whisht.

We found a fragment along the beach of blue and white chinoiserie. My mother once purchased a similar set in a charity shop. You smile at the tale: a five-year-old finger that traced multi-tiered pagodas and fishermen with long braids. The pattern’s willow fronds caressed roof tiles, tiny heads, ripples from a boat’s wake. Later, I read the tree symbolised Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion. Flexing in strong wind. The leaves her tears for human anguish. You bought a cracked willow dish at a car-boot sale, suspended it over our kitchen door.

Wicca, wicca, wicca. Hush, now, hush.

All the signs missed, or did we look away? In hospice, I stroked thinning strands along your brow, counted shallow breaths. Legends read from a Victorian tome. Our tree on the cover—a golden cascade. As his boat passed under a stooped willow, a limb dislodged Alexander’s diadem. The Oracle foretold. Death at thirty-two. I held your hand, shared your pillow. When my sorrow dampened our shared headrest, I heard you whisper a final fact: salix springs anew in the wettest soil.


Marie Geth­ins’ work has featured in Australian Book Review, Banshee, NANO, Litro, NFFD anthologies, Flash and others. Selected for Best Microfictions 2021, BIFFY50 2020, Marie is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, British Screenwriters Award nominee, recipient of a Frank O’Connor Bursary, a residency at Banff Center for Arts and Creativity and a 2023 Hawthornden Fellowship. She is an editor for Splonk and tweets @MarieGethins.