For an Appalachian kitchen witch
The dead come back as braided husk and hair—
cob effigies she wraps in rags and leans
against a bedroom wall so they can hear
her griefs and grievances, their faces clean
without a mouth to make plain how she’s wrong.
But when they start to rot into the floor,
the scraps she’s learned to live with for so long,
the carved-stalk limbs and torsos crushed to flour,
recede, and she’s offended by the loss.
Though she may tell a stone slab she forgives,
or sniff the wadded collar of a blouse,
or glimpse them in the rain, she knows they have
no breath or blood outside the icy stream
of these slips and dreams. Still, she slips, she dreams.
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- “The Sound of the World Alive”: A Conversation with Maurice Manning - September 22, 2022