Dead Hand Butter

“Round and round, dead hand go,
churn the milk to creamy butter.
round and round, to and fro,
to a thickness like no other!”

‘Twas a dead hand for a black rite,
pickled with a virgin’s blood draught
and churned round in the dead of night
to waxen, corpse-like dairy craft.

The hand had belonged to a lass
affable to those who knew her
and of a soul as clear as glass;
a wise butterer and brewer.

Her latter talents earned the wrath
of the resentful preacher’s wife,
who claimed the maid on a dark path
and, so, exiled her from church life.

Nor did this sate the preacher’s wife,
for her jealousy could not cloy
and like a pagan god of strife
she sought to torment and destroy.

The preacher’s wife convinced the flock
that the maid’s crafts were blasphemy
and, given time and serpent talk,
a noose was dangled from a tree.

They confined the maid in the jail
in the cold month of December,
and soon she expired in her cell
without wamth of cloak or ember.

The trial was forfeit, hereby,
and the village claimed God’s will done,
for guilt, they said, had made her die,
whereas virtue warms like the sun.

They buried the maid on the side
of the graveyard reserved for those
unbaptized, heathen, all whom died
destined for purgatory’s woes.

And the preacher’s wife, like a fox,
crept to the graveyard where there laid
her victim, exhuming the box
to cut hand from wrist of the maid.

For the preacher’s wife was the witch
that churned butter with a dead hand
a hand that would tremble and twitch
at the hag’s covetous command.

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