Elizabeth Howard, US






dawn meadow
the hustle and bustle
of wild turkeys



chain saws
the stench
of clear-cutting



Free Verse


Crazy Old Woman


A phantom carriage with four black horses
is sometimes seen rolling along . . . High Street

                                   Historic Rugby, Tennessee

Eighty years old, yet nothing would satisfy
her but to sail from England, most civilized
of countries, to a godforsaken wilderness
in America. She wanted to see the raw
land, to get up at dawn, labor to stay
one step ahead of need, watch sunset,
satisfied she’d bested hardship.

The hardship was all mine, cooking, canning,
cleaning, gardening, laundry, nursing a grouch
through bouts of gout, insomnia, incontinence,
pushing her chair about so she could find fault.
Why hadn’t I pruned the roses? Why did I hang
her best gown in the sun? Didn’t I see dust
on the armoire? Evenings, she insisted I hitch
horses to the carriage and drive her through
the village.. It was a chore, to hitch horses
that bit and kicked, hoist her over the wheel,
drive down the road, her harping in my ear
about mud puddles, speed, and curves.

My feet wanted to dance when men lowered
her into the grave. Through with her at last,
I thought. She came that very night, pulled
covers, rattled china. I saw her craggy face
in the moonlight. Toward morning, I heard
snoring in the bed where she’d slept, found
the imprint of a head on the pillow. Months,
she tormented my sleep. It ended one night
when a carriage rushed through the village
like a runaway locomotive and crashed
into the oaks at the ess curve. We found
hoof prints, carriage tracks, broken saplings.
No sign of horses, carriage, nor a hag’s face
in moonlight. But on occasion, horses neigh
like demons from hell, a carriage rumbles
through the village, and crashes into trees.









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