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Natalie Louise Tombasco

King Hunt: A Verse Drama


(blizzard, enter three witches) the weïrd sisters lady cackle as they stick pins

through popcorn and cranberry garland to tether the king. hail! hail! he wails

with pure animal grief but the stockiest one stuffs his mouth with a doily, heaves

him more inward into a room with many compartments. upon a haystack, black


philip watches sideways from his goat eye and asks, “wouldst thou like to live

deliciously? less repressed?” the king throbs under the floorboards as hurley-burly commences around a feast, soliciting oracles. the three bearded strega nonnas

raise their campari spritzes and toast to collective loathings. personified pusbags


in an aura of warts and feminine stink (the phallic gaze turns away) limitless bodies

like porous ships lactating ocean water, suckling demons. the potion gives them

a purple, quasi-maternal glow as they unzip like a bodybag and their grotesque

turns more guadagnino, more martha graham’s “lamentation;” the village square


is a blue tube. the witches begin to jump, over and over, pounding down on gravity.

higher, higher, higher into the filthy air, like los angeles smog, until they levitate.


it is the hour the moon waxes us hairless as sphynx, as girls (a moss

curtain opens to cottagegore: thorn bushes, cavernous plants—the coven emerges

like emerald-draped isabella rossellinis, smelling like old, leather-bound books,

palo santo wood; they assume the royal “we”) we dance around the hearth,


feeling our 70-year-old skin tighten like a bodice for dissipation. we write

names into our bestiary, our burn book: napoleon, freud, nabokov. behold!

our king sleeps off the struggle, tied-up dried lavender. would it be poetic

justice to burn him at the stake? a fatal, ice-fishing trip? a de quincey bloodbath?


(enter alma, the apothecary, with poison mushrooms: destroying angels to slow him a little)

hecate rises from hyper-dormancy into choreography with plantocene kinfolk,

contorting, rewilding—all herb, verb. what does it mean to be belladonna? a deed

without a name? let us do for what we came, hurry, before we wane, shrivel: double,


double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. toad song, owl pellet, mother-

in-law’s tongue, scale of mullet: sweetie, take two, and call me in the morning.  

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Natalie Louise Tombasco is a PhD candidate at Florida State University and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Southeast Review. Recent work can be found in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Diode Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, and The Cincinnati Review, among others. Her debut collection MILK FOR GALL has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and will be published in Fall 2024 by Southern Indiana Review. Find out more at

Bear Review


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