Grandma Gone Out of Breeden West Virginia, poem by Tiff Holland

At home, the chick­en coop was more stur­dy
than this house where the women gath­ered
like hens around the grand­moth­er in the box,
my mother’s gram, laid out there in the front room,
sur­round­ed by the flow­ers that grew in the hills.

I turned eight that day and no one remem­bered.
They were think­ing about death, but I was wor­ried
About the Cuya­hoga-sized crick, about squat­ting
over the hole in the out­house out back.

There might be snakes like the ones in the ser­vice,
rel­a­tives I didn’t know sway­ing like the snakes
they held, while I blinked and blinked, cer­tain
it was a bad dream, wait­ing for the birth­day cake
that had to come, try­ing to keep my bal­ance
on the rope bridge between the crick’s banks
know­ing it was the only way back.

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