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‘Haint’ by Eve Ellis


Last night I heard the dogs again,
this side of the crick. This morning
another window’s smudged

and her bitty footprint’s in the skift.
Ma wipes her eyes and the glass,
takes the broom out to snow-sweep.

Pa’s painting the fence blue like
a river she can’t cross. Tonight
he’ll throw salt on the coals.

They’ll tuck me in while the sun’s
stumbling down through the hollers,
tripping on all those new stones.

But I’ve been up early, when it’s airish,
with no light yet over the balds,
and crept into the front room

and seen her playing by the stove,
her mite fingers dandling the red
embers. I know she sees me

with her black eyes
and her brickle hair
and her gap mouth

and her pocky skin.
I say, baby sis, jasper-girl,
where have you been?


Appalachian dialect/ Standard English

haint/ ghost
crick/ creek, stream
skift/ thin layer of snow
holler/ a hollow, valley
airish/ chilly
bald/ treeless mountaintop
mite/ small
brickle/ brittle
jasper/ stranger, outsider

‘Haint’ won the inaugural Winchester Poetry Prize, and was originally written on Kate Potts’ Poetry School course New Definitions & Neologisms in Spring 2015. This is Eve Ellis’ first published poem.

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Image Credits:

Christopher Paquette