She could not sleep. There

when evening mushroomed

through the porchwood, the spiderlegs

of light spread out across the hollow,

poplar cups clutching each stray webstrand,


she could not sleep

without thinking of the pine barn leaning

toward the valley, of the creekbed

filling with iron, lime, and mouse bones.

And Eli, gone to the coal camp just one week.


That week roils forward heavy with storm,

each day whipped into a frothy pool of half-night:


she hears the air chewing

through her sleep creaky with rocking

back and forth, forth and back, sees the green

eyeshine of an owl blink from the birch.


If it flies left of the house:  withered crops, spoiled eggs.

If it flies right:  healthy children, no cornmold, Eli in


And should she fly directly over:  a loss, a cave thick with


a slab of bedrock sunk beneath a lake.


Her wingtips drag like rain over the roof edge

touching both eaves at once, and Ora knows

the shade as a sadness gloaming inside her

home—a family of quail scuttling into the thicket.


-Sarah McCartt-Jackson-
“Gulch.” Journal of American Folklore. 126.502 (2013). Print.

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