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.
“Gulch.” Journal of American Folklore. 126.502 (2013). Print.