You think you are fine, will always be fine. You braid your hair. You think about not washing the dishes. You buy a box of milk, sign and mail the burial plot papers, peel paint from the dining room chair, or address letters to your husband at the coal camp. Chickens peck at grit in the yard but there’s not enough cornbread to scrape from the skillet, so you prepare a boiling pot to pluck and slaughter the scrawniest bird. You splinter the unfinished chair on the porch steps. When your face floats in the scummy pond or in your hand-mirror in the woodburning light or over the dark pupils of your other daughters, you beg to be let go, burn a hymn into the air until your voice blisters each oak knot in your plank walls. You pull the quilts closer, feel winter creep over your toes. You feel bloodless but do not sleep, your night wide and heavy with the mountain. You listen to your children breathing through the shale. You whisper, Shhhh, shhhh.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson is a Kentucky poet and folklorist. Her most recent work can be found in Inch, Indiana Review, and Journal of American Folklore. She has been honored by the Academy of American Poets, Kentucky Women Writers, and as Tidal Basin Review’s inaugural Poetry Series Center Feature poet.