I place a black silk handkerchief
over a glass of four-day-old rainwater
from the birdbath of a house where patricide was committed.
It shows me sickness
the work of some ’ole snake bone hag
who takes up residence in a lawnmower shed
behind the liquor store at the county line.
Tonight is nothing but a cardinal
pursued by the brutal abyss.
Tonight is nothing but an identity
consisting of only two feelings: dim and ruin.
Tonight is nothing but blacken teeth.
I look out of the house
and see the moon rising.
I see the snake bone hag coming up
with the moon
with the blood
with a water moccasin wrapped around one arm
a diamondback wrapped around the other.
Before morning-light slaps the rooftop
I have to have breakfast done.
I have to eat breakfast with no walking behind me.
No shadows cast over my plate.
A young woman, her death is doubled-spaced,
Every time she coughs,
she gives up chunks of blood.
I smell her sheets.
I have to suck out a rattler’s broken fang
penetrating her heart and back.
From then on, she will have to chew
on black haw and sage
’till next quarter moon.
On my way home, on Longhills Road,
the ghost of the young woman’s mother
tries to pay me with a handful of dead leaves.
Read Sy Hoahwah’s “Black Haw” in the print edition of The Arkansas International 7.
Sy Hoahwah is Comanche/Southern Arapaho, and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas. He has published two collections of his work: Night Cradle (USPOCO Books, 2011) and Velroy and the Madischie Mafia (West End Press, 2009). In 2013, Sy was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship.