To celebrate Halloween, poets Bhanu Kapil and Sophie Robinson share two new ‘spells’ exclusively on Dazed
Witchy publishing imprint Ignota Books is releasing a new poetry collection titled Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry. Edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, the collection marries themes of the occult with our very modern concerns in the digital age. Here’s two of our favourites, from poets Bhanu Kapil and Sophie Robinson. Get a copy of the whole book here.
1947: SPELL TO REVERSE A LINE
If the line is a border and a border is a boundary award.
If you left at night.
If you were warned by your neighbours.
If you saw through a hole in the cart...
And if this glimpse repeated on loop, a story of early childhood
woven into bed-time fairy-tales and stories.
Then this is a spell to reverse the line, the hole, the night itself.
This is a spell to stop the loop.
To regain one’s wholeness as a human being.
This is a spell:
My mother glimpsed, through a hole in the cart’s soft wall...
By some estimates, 2 million people died in the transition of
Muslim and Hindu populations from one province to another.
“I saw women, tied to the trees, their stomachs cut out.”
The image: partial, glimpsed, and it was only when I grew older
that I encountered other models of working with language and
imagery that were less to do with the value poetry places on
repetition or recursion than an idea about expanding the image
As if the image was the concentrated fluid.
Used to titrate.
Because it was as if.
When my family crossed that line.
That border, that boundary.
That nothing more could be recalled.
That the memories of the train pulling in, its floor ankle high
with blood and every person on the train.
Except for my uncle, who had been hiding in the bathroom.
To the speaker.
Exhausting the speaker to such a degree.
Indeed, when I sit down to write, I also feel exhausted.
I blank out.
As I do when someone tells me they love me.
Yes, and what about this numbness, which I conceal from others?
Is it a trait?
Is inherited trauma like the water passed from one generation to
another, placed in the hands of each person in turn?
But if the glass is broken.
If even one drop is spilled.
You will be punished so severely you will not be able to leave
your home for many days.
I lived in a family of people who survived a massacre or
witnessed its aftermath.
They spent seven nights on a railway platform “with dead bodies
My mother wept, telling this story.
To my son.
In a Mexican restaurant on Eisenhower Avenue.
It was my mistake.
He was writing a paper on colonization. I said:
“Ask your grandmother. She’s sitting right in front of you. She
Through these things.
When I was a child, I lived with a mother who was still
By these experiences.
Did her way of seeing the world.
Or recollecting it.
Cast a spell on my own brain?
The way that everything I wrote returned.
To the image of a woman’s body.
Poked, upright or inverted.
Or pinned to a tree in the world.
I wrote about the neighbourhood of immigrants and workers I
grew up in, on the outskirts of London where the Nestle factory
drops its lilac skirt into the canal.
I wrote about patriarchy as something that happens outside the
home but also inside it.
One night, I left England, unable to move from image to
narrative in ways that were recognized as writing, at that time, by
Here I am!
So far from home!
Unable to write.
What I came here to write.
Convinced that if I could.
Then I would be free.
Of the extreme suppression.
That has shown up in all areas of my life.
How the indigo of childhood.
Its smudges and illegible writing.
Became my art.
This is a specific spell:
Catch a train from Amritsar to Lahore.
From India, that is.
To the city your family were living in.
Or vice versa.
When the neighbours warned them one night to go.
Did your grandfather burn his notebooks, scraping the ash into a
tiny lacquered box?
My spell is this:
Disembark when the train stops.
Catch a taxi to the street where a house once was.
In a nearby café, order a freezing cold coffee.
And drink it, as slowly as you possibly can, savoring each sip.
In a place nobody spoke about or wanted to speak about.
Because it no longer existed.
Here, where everyone walking by.
Looks just like you.
I have the strange feeling that if I could make this journey.
I could reverse.
The effects of a long-held suffering in my family system that
makes its face known in the arguments of elders over property or
ownership, but also domestic violence towards women and girls
in its many forms.
Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
I remember writing that question in my notebook when I got to
Because I wanted to write.
Because what will others inherit from me?
I am writing this spell for:
Other women or non-binary folks.
In the Punjabi Diaspora.
I want to make this spell open to others.
And not limit it.
To the loss, grief and hope that has marked my own life.
I want to open this spell or offer it.
To anyone who needs it.
To anyone whose family system or nervous system.
Has been marked by a war.
That preceded their life span.
And it goes without saying.
That you don’t have to go there.
That you don’t need a visa or cash or a ticket.
To cast this spell.
You can travel.
To these places.
In your dreams.
In your extreme way of making art.
In what it is to be with others.
In the way that you are with others.
MYSTICS OF YOUTUBE
when you turn
32 the planets of the lovers
are in the exact same place
in the sky as they were
when you were born
when you went away
i only kept quiet when i ate
do i not even now
have something in my mouth
as i write this
a gummy void a baby void
because i was lovehungry—
when you return
like the moon curving the earth
don’t call me
by my name
my milky folds
my pinky folds
my moony face o this trance im in
i leave myself on read
take a white bath
shave my legs to the top
consult the mystics of youtube
from the tub
nothing lasts forever
so stay a little hungry
so let the void stay empty
so let the moon sway gently
as it comes round the corner
my eyes get stuck on aurora —
everything returns so i don’t have to
moon now reflected
in a wide & round reservoir of milk
down at the edge of town
further from the sun now my winter of bad thots
my life in black tshirts i left me on read again
so i stay a little empty took off my tshirt again
so i stay a little hungry a little further from the sun again
so im watching that same film again
so im eating my same feelings again:
pop tart peanut buttercup
♫ nothing lasts forever
white ladies! sing to me: