We called the ridge after her, lonesome jagged
furrow that it was, barely level enough
ground to scratch out a road, the cady mar
was how it sounded in the olden tongue,
spoken still by ones too young to recall
who she was, or what she did, or how she
came to be there, alone, we heard, in such
place as that, dire dreadful sovereign place.
Not arable land, too steep for food crops,
for grazing animals, but not barren.
Every bright kind of mountain wildflower
grew there, wild phlox, columbine, mayapple,
those good only for pretty, and those good
for bile, canker, thrush-mouth, and swimmy head,
bitter roots boiled down to tea, or stirred round
with whiskey, rock candy, and glycerin.
She was none of the Fate Myers people,
or unclaimed kin if she was, those few who
prospered and lived in town, who bought up
all the roadside farms of the county seat.
Driving her ridge at night was riding with
the ghost, doing whatever he told you.
Her ridge at night. Cabin stitched right into
the forest floor, windowless, door hanging
by the bottom hinge, like some drunkard flung
aside, but with one foot still planted firm,
its shingles seemed to reach across the road
toward trees from which they were descended.
She could have lived there, century before last,
if stories be trusted, if damp wood holds
together in that sunless stretch of slant,
where black snakes drape from the shoulder
so languorously car wheels catch and grind
them into strips of pink and black taffeta.
Once your grandfather told of a candle
wavering a lone flame in the window,
light where both sun and moon are strangers,
his car first slowing down, then taking off
at full speed, exactly like his heartbeat,
her shadow, he hoped, left far behind him.