Granny gathers stinkhorn,
fetches a jug from the creek where boneset grows
and splashes water-cooled moonshine
across her altar —
an ash stump.
Left as its own memorial, like a dead man
buried with his feet jutting
from the ground.
arms above her head, shadow hands
trace a ring on the ground. I etch their path
with a stick. Inside the rim,
Granny reads leaves —
small stories found in small cups.
On this windless autumn day, she stands for hours
in the copse. Feels for acorns underfoot.
A woodsman stalks November nights.
I leave granny a letter about the beastly things
I’ve seen —
Orion’s feet treading the eastern wood,
bowhunting quarry that drops
among our trees.
I watch meteors blaze,
listen to vixens scream and rabbits shriek.
I walk the forest with a lantern searching for his kills,
find foxfire glowing along the fallen logs
where shot stars laid down to die.
I tell granny everything —
sprinkle maple leaves on the hearth,
roast a biddy hen on a bed of bay. I tuck walnuts
and buckeyes inside her shoe.
It’s the time of evening
when the horizon is cobalt outside our windows.
Granny ladles leek soup from earthenware,
floats spiced apples in mugs and returns my correspondence —
sage leaves, plucked from hanging bundles
arranged beneath my plate
When the dishes are cleared, we strike matches,
carry candlelight out the backdoor.
Under a new moon
we walk the perimeter, lighting piles of kindling
in the cardinal directions. Bonfires ring
the clearing around her cabin.
On a dark night like this, Orion will look down
at our constellation of a shield —
turn his arrow toward Scorpio.
Lorrie Ness is a psychologist and poet living in Virginia. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Palette Poetry, Typishly, Thrush and others. She has been nominated for Best of the Net Awards in 2019 and 2020 by Sky Island Journal.