Jessica Barksdale

Three Witches

They were nearing fifty,
three beautiful witches
eating dark chocolate
and sipping red wine
in the afternoon living room,
talking about thinning hair
and problem uteruses
and dry skin.

One described dousing the scalp
with onion juice.
Another said she would have kept the baby,
though it turned out to be a fibroid,
not a pregnancy.
The other talked of olive oil, applied liberally,

Now they are in their late seventies.
Now they are at the jumping off point,
wearing one-piece suits and thick plastic swim caps,
the three of them at the wag end of the high dive,
bouncing up and down, up and down,
smiling back at me
as I climb the ladder,
waiting for my turn.


Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including Her Daughter’s Eyes and When You Believe. Her latest novel, How to Bake a Man, is forthcoming from Ghostwoods Books. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Compose, Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. You can read more at:

Jessica has lived in the same area her entire life, all 52 years, save for some time as a baby. When she dreams of living elsewhere, she thinks, Paris. She loves that city: the streets, the elegant women, their scarves. The dogs at the cafes. She loves Dublin, too: the art, the music, the people flooding the streets. As she drives by, small bucolic towns look good, call out. All that green. All that quiet. All those cows. New York: she loves plays. Boston: so historic. But here she is, not leaving. So she has answered her question just by living. She is living where she wants to, the San Francisco Bay Area.