Jacob’s Ladder


They say children born on the wrong side

of the river grow wild as fleabane

and do not return until Spring,

their veins all grass stems and cricket legs,


and that wild scuttles straight from their eyes

over the creekbed and slips over the birdfoot violet

into the sandstone,


A mother cannot look at them directly—

their pupils might crumble like dry mud under a thumb.


But Ora could not get to the other bank

for the flood washing the river’s cobble

and the mussels loose from their shells

and her husband gone to the camp.


So her baby’s hands uncurled as bluet and phlox,

her heart a hard walnut, shriveled and shut,

her bloody mouth a kiss on her mother’s thigh.


-Sarah McCartt-Jackson-
“Jacob’s Ladder.” Journal of American Folklore. 126.502 (2013). Print.

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