Question One, Chapter Seven: As They Deprive Man
The body lost. Smooth body. Wine
and woman. Sadness in his body asked
If you must use violence, watch
the way. He choked her, saying
You shall die at my hands. She said
Let me go, and I will heal you.
Her hand restored to him touch. He had
lost his place—he was absent and
living in promises. He came back after his
understanding, torn away from the body,
understood words. A man who is awake
sees God’s memory. Memory is
man’s beast. When memory sees
the question of love and reason, he is
able to change. And he does, weeping.
The light appears different from what it was
before. Fire or water strip themselves
naked. People say all their lusts
can change. A girl was turned
into a woman and not her honesty.
She would not follow another man’s wife.
In its place: loss, loss, loss. Who sees loss—
the loss of senses, loss of thought?
Witches sometimes collect lost trees.
The repository of memory in bodies
is human, is necessary, is without any
other—can restore pain, can work human
acts. Can be infinitely more.
Chapter Nine: The Head Hurt the Body
Ask the bodies of those who are deluded—
are our bodies the world?
Bodies are moved by the stars and they enter
God, who created our bodies.
They draw out the memory of pain and
transformation. A spider
feels its web in every part of the body.
The work of the body
exists in the body, the body obsessed.
Can the works of nature
be known to us? This work must be given
the power in names,
true beyond the dead or the blind. To see,
enter the body—
sight restores light to the truth. Between
the first and last house,
the work of death knows.
Unable to rise
or to move, a woman in a fury considered
that they were not women.
He had struck the shapes of work, the shapes
of the air, women
in a painted image, women who were
hurt by God, hurt
although they were not setting snares for
each other. Their curiosity
was their crime. Their bodies
belong to the blows,
and the one who beat them. And the truth released
the witches. The witches
were the blows which they received. A wound
in a person represents
the person, even the innocent—to be hurt
with one’s consent
is to have thought and doubt. Bodies
belong to the blows.
They permitted the one who beat them
to remain unpunished.
Chapter Ten: Sometimes Men
Someone may doubt
whether they possess
any mortal grace,
since guilt can be understood
with the soul or
with the body. It is not possible
to possess the soul.
The soul is no body. A man
the sea without question.
Men in their own
bodies change into grace with
the power of words.
Even his hair-shirt and his whole
heart God learned
after many days. One life went too
far in the void
crying out, I can find no rest.
the crimes of experience. He sat
down at the table
and talked of his sorrow.
Under a tree, he had
once loved a marble virgin, made for
Day on day for forty days he touched
his own body, saying,
This refers to exterior things.
His hand, his life, his
body were a distortion. His body was
shut off from his
death and he was shaken with doubt.
The limits of the body will
occupy a man
and at times deprive him of reason.
The limits of the body
influence mercy. To preserve it,
the soul works
from the outside, dark
intellect. The soul is not
the body. Tormented without
the sane wo/man doubts.
Chapter Eleven: The Kind Grave
No body will answer
the question of the elements.
men and their reason a clear
injury to history.
A woman invited the body
to tell the secret
discord of anger and said that suffering
had to find lodging
in the people until all the houses
As for death, it alone causes the rain.
Gravity does not
seem possible for the man without
death. He suffers
no doubt. He does not suffer
the bodies of women.
Those women were in their own bodies,
eating and drinking,
condemned for thinking. A woman’s
words: I was angry.
I wished he would always, beyond my
The woman burned and paid
the debt of all people.
One night she went out of the house.
The door struck her face
and she prepared for her burning. She said:
I will not survive
the crimes of which we cannot speak.
The Second Question: The Difficulty of Destroying
To remove is not to cure. Men seek
by whom they are borne,
to look for a cure.
Even to seek a remedy is to sin,
for a man may suffer
when it seems good to him.
all things human,
even the mind,
A man ought rather to die
than consent to be cured,
contrary to the work of an injury.
Women discover a pail of milk,
the fire, a stick.
The women beat back the learned Doctor.
Because he is dead,
he is lost.
But he knows how to cure a marriage.
Even if the remedy is not honest,
without imposing it on another
person a clearer understanding will know love.
A girl sent her heart to the fire.
An old woman went to the girl,
but she turned her face away and died.
is to be hurt.
That hurt is human.
The body is wrought by injury.
And in what light should women
reveal their own hands?
They are the poor who cry out in their pains.
their own house and they remove obstacles
without any injury to anyone.
When a woman met the ground,
thorns and bones asked
how many days had passed.
Words dissolved doubt
and proved a cure,
which later led into the house,
not through the main door,
but over the threshold of the kitchen.
The fire and the door disappear.
She is unable to enter
She is unable to leave.
Process note: These poems are part of a book-length project which erases the Malleus Maleficarum, or the “Hammer of the Witches,” a text that was used during the Inquisition to hunt and convict witches, written by Heinrich Kramer and James Springer. I have taken the 1928 Rev. Montague Summers translation as my source text, available at http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org. It is a deeply and disturbingly misogynistic text, including lines like “When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.” I’m friends with another professor at my school who teaches European History and we often have conversations over lunch about how to deal with historical hate-texts like this one. Erasure seems like one way to deflate the negative power of the words, and imagine the voices of the women (and men) who were murdered based on the warped theology of the Malleus.
The rules of my erasures were that I could delete, but not rearrange or add, except for punctuation. Although at first, I began by deleting at the word-level, as the project progressed, I became much more aggressive about my deletion, and also found myself focusing on certain repetitions. For example, almost every time the word “heresy” appeared, it became “her,” in the poem. It was in this way that I began to uncover the woman these poems speak about. Titles are anagrams of the original section titles.
Phoebe Reeves earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, and now teaches English at the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont College in rural southern Ohio. Her chapbook The Lobes and Petals of the Inanimate was published by Pecan Grove Press in 2009. Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Memorious, Phoebe, and Radar Poetry.