By midsummer, the unmowed grass
waved long and silver in the wind,
rippling like water. Behind the house,
far away from the devil's claw
and horsetail tea, the lingering odor
of camphor salve, I'd dive in, lie flat
on the buzzy bottom, breathing hard,
my good ear pressed to the ground.
A feral cat trailed my grandmother
room to room, invisible and terrifying
and ready to scratch your eyes out.
Sometimes, I heard it hissing.
My grandmother pursed her lips,
said now hush, that's just the kettle.
But I knew she'd seen it.
Seen it and fed it meat.
She carried her frightening belly
before her, sang battle hymns
under her breath. Her own spit
could keep coydogs away.
She called my mother the Queen,
said there's no use wishing
you could churn sour milk into sweet,
wishing your sons had more sense.
She dragged away the concrete
cistern lid so I could hear the banshee
that lived down there, held me
by the neck like a scrawny kitten,
pushed me toward the blackness, then
pulled me back from the edge. A shroud
of dampness wreathed my shoulders.
Below us, water dripped, tinny and cold.
Antonia Clark is a medical writer for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont. She has previously published short stories and essays, has taught creative writing in community college and adult education programs, and is currently co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in The Pedestal Magazine, kaleidowhirl, Rattle, and Tipton Poetry Journal.