Image by Jessica Furtney


the madrigal, volume iii

Clean Scares Me

by ellen huang

I didn't do it when the new years rang in
         I didn't do it to make way for my initiation

         and I didn't do it for no valentines nor lent.

Have you ever seen a clutter-free witch?
         A wizard without a mountain of books?
         A sorcerer without a smattering of props?

But I supposed it was time to be better
         at keeping sorcery secrets, to curate
         what it means to be an open book. So I sulked

and glared in the stairway at the broom and dustpan.

        Then stood and glared, compelling them
        until they swept the room for me.

Next, the dishes got to washing.
        the soap to bubbling, the soup to boiling, the tea to pouring.                  Then off I was to get the books to shrinking

But I can stop

                                whenever I want.

You see, no one wants it too clean, lest you forget

        useful lizard toes to preserve, or broken

        seashells for sea witchcraft.
        (I promise there's a system.)


I was skipping my way down
        when the taxidermized stuffed animals

        quickly passed the gift of life.

And before I knew it
        the bubbles ambushed the room
        and the hot water spilled over and
        the books began laughing in high voices.

The shoes were romping and the broom
        put up a fight, and the jackets were choking

        and the dish ran away with the spoon.

And now I've a mess worse than I've begun with,

        from my own magic, and I'm wondering
        if mice and birds can offer better service.

But I take the chaos, perhaps even preferred it,
                      for fear of what this ominous, legendary

                                                                imaginary "clean" looks like.

Ellen Huang (she/her) is an ace writer of fairy tales. She reads for Whale Road Review and is published/forthcoming in "NOMBONO" by Sundress Publications, "The Medusa Project" by Mookychick, and "Shades of Pride" by TL;DR Press; not to mention warning lines mag, horse egg literary, miniskirt magazine, Pink Plastic House, Next Door Villain, The Sock Drawer, Lanke Review, Moonflake Press, Ice Lolly Review, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for Best of the Net twice this year, and is currently working on an ace horror anthology and a fairytale chapbook. She also likes wearing capes. Follow her creative work at: