In Half-Hanged Mary, Mary Webster is being hung for the alleged crime of being a witch. At 6am, she ominously pronounces that 'Most will have only one death/I will have two.'
There are two things she may be alluding to when she says this:
1)Mary counts her hanging as the first death. Since she lives to tell the tale, Mary will likely experience her second death when either old age, disease, or some other factor claims her life. Meanwhile, the hanging has rendered her an untouchable figure in her Puritan community. The specter of her first death surrounds her like a poisonous aura, an 'ambiguous nimbus.'
2)Mary's terrible ordeal has robbed her of her reason and her identity. Prior to her hanging, she was fraudulently accused of being a witch, and now, after her botched hanging, she finds that she is one. The loss of her faculties is a sort of spiritual death. Along with the death of her reason, the obliteration of her identity is now complete. She will forever be held at arms length by every respectable citizen in her Puritan community. Now, the only one who can understand her speech is God, because no one else has experienced death twice.
Before, I was not a witch.
But now I am one.
I skitter over the paths and fields
mumbling to myself like crazy,
mouth full of juicy adjectives
and purple berries.
The townsfolk dive headfirst into the bushes
to get out of my way.
Holiness gleams on my dirty fingers,
I eat flowers and dung,
two forms of the same thing, I eat mice
and give thanks, blasphemies
gleam and burst in my wake
like lovely bubbles.
My audience is God,
because who the hell else could understand me?
Who else has been dead twice?