“Black Haw”

A Poem by Sy Hoahwah

February 25, 2021  By Sy Hoahwah

Black silk handkerchief
over a glass of four-day-old rainwater
from the birdbath of a house
where patricide was committed.

Article continues below

It shows me sickness,
the work of a snake-bone hag
who takes up residence in a wood pile
behind the liquor store at the county line.

Tonight is nothing but a cardinal
pursued by the brutal abyss.

Tonight is nothing but an identity
consisting of only two feelings: dim and ruin.

Tonight is nothing but blackened teeth.

Article continues below

I look out of the house.
Snake-bone hag is rising
with the blood-bucket moon,
a water moccasin wrapped around one arm,
a diamondback wrapped around the other.

Before morning light slaps the rooftop
I have to have breakfast done.

I have to eat breakfast with no one walking behind me,
no shadows cast over my plate.

A young woman’s death, doubled-spaced.
Her cough smells like pennies.

I suck out a rattler’s broken fang
penetrating her heart and back.

Article continues below

To fight off infection, she will have to chew
on black haw and sage.

On my way home, the ghost of the young woman’s mother
tries to pay me with a handful of dead leaves.


Ancestral Demon of a Grieving Bride by Sy Hoahwah

From Ancestral Demon of a Grieving Bride by Sy Hoahwah. Copyright © 2021 University of New Mexico Press.

Article continues below

Sy Hoahwah
Sy Hoahwah
Sy Hoahwah is also the author of Velroy and the Madischie Mafia: Poems and the chapbook Night Cradle. He is Yapaituka Comanche and Southern Arapaho.

More Story
This Year’s NBCC Award Finalists: Imperial Liquor by Amaud Jamaul Johnson Over the next month we’ll be sharing the National Book Critics Circle’s appreciations of this year’s NBCC Award finalists....

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.