Black silk handkerchief
over a glass of four-day-old rainwater
from the birdbath of a house
where patricide was committed.
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.
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.
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.
From Ancestral Demon of a Grieving Bride by Sy Hoahwah. Copyright © 2021 University of New Mexico Press.