I hoe thawed ground with a vengeance. Winter has left my house empty of dried beans and meat. I am hungry and now that a few buds appear on the sycamore, I watch the road winding down this dark mountain not even the mule can climb without a struggle. Long daylight and nobody comes while my husband traps rabbits, chops firewood, or walks away into the thicket. Abandoned to hoot owls and copperheads, I begin to fear sickness. I wait for pneumonia and lockjaw. Each month I brew squaw tea for pain. In the stream where I scrub my own blood from rags, I see all things flow down from me into the valley. Once I climbed the ridge to the place where the sky comes. Beyond me the mountains continued like God. Is there no place to hide from His silence? A woman must work else she thinks too much. I hoe this earth until I think of nothing but the beans I will string, the sweet corn I will grind into meal. We must eat. I will learn to be grateful for whatever comes to me.
Kathryn Stripling Byer
This, he said, giving the hickory leaf to me. Because I am poor. And he lifted my hand to his lips, kissed the fingers that might have worn gold rings if he had inherited bottomland, not this impossible rock where the eagles soared after the long rains were over. He stood in the wet grass, his open hands empty, his pockets turned inside out. Queen of the Meadow, he teased me and bowed like a gentleman. I licked the diamonds off the green tongue of the leaf, wanting only that he fill his hands with my hair.