“I think you take me to be a witch myself.”
– James VI & I, Daemonologie
His birth chased death from his mother’s rooms,
delivered from Mary’s womb as summer turned
its first corner outside the little window, warmth
of morning spinning up steep wynds and closes.
Here is the newborn prince, his face tilted to air,
tiny eyes blinking, still protected from the world
as he emerged wrapped in chorion and amnion.
And all of this cleared away by the midwife, who
declared him lucky by more than accident of birth.
The young queen held her bonny son, counting ten
fingers made to aim arrows, grip daggers, clear
forests of deer; ten toes ready to ascend the throne.
Years later, there was something the witches of North Berwick
wouldn’t know, as they bent intent into wax shapes, royal poppets
and dripped toad venom into the sea: how James was born
veiled by his thin lucky skin – who is born in the caul cannot
drown. As enchantments doomed one ship to the whip of wind
and wave, the king stood fast – as if saved by his own magic.
Kate Garrett is a writer, editor, mama, and folk percussionist who sometimes haunts 465-year-old houses (as a heritage volunteer). Her next chapbook, A View from the Phantasmagoria, is forthcoming in October 2020 from Rhythm & Bones Press, and her historical collection Hart & Halfpenny will be published by TwistiT Press in March 2021. Born in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to the UK in 1999, where she lives halfway up an urban hillside in Sheffield.