I was born in a Tennessee sanatorium hours after my mother’s father died & I know
how the womb becomes a salt-sea grave.
I was born in the last seconds of small crops & small change rained down on the
collection plate’s felt palate & I know
the soul’s barn debt to past generations, too.
Outside, ditchfuls of chicory flashed in the after-rain sun as melancholia’s purple
scent rose & its steepled fog distilled in Tennessee hills.
& I know I’m not supposed to be here on account of all those crazy aunts & I know
great-grandma was five
when her Cherokee mother died & her daddy dumped her on the red clay curb
of an Arkansas reservation then drove away in a wagon –
how she just strode the fields of milkweed back to Tennessee & married her cousin.
When I was five I drowned a fly in a piepan of water then spooned it out & heaped
a hill of salt on its still body until I could hear a buzz again (as if within a belly)
& I know the rush of the resurrected.
I was born in the last decade of small town girls wearing white gloves to funerals.
As an infant my boy quit suckling long enough to wave to my mother’s ghost –
who used to drift in the doorway of the hours.
& at three he told me that at my age he had red hair & broke his neck falling off
a runaway horse – I know
the rocking chair’s set too close to the edge of the porch.
from Murder Ballad by Jane Springer