Appalachian Ghazal

A bird flies through the front door:
death in the family.

A raven rests on your rooftop:
within a fortnight, death in the family.

A blackbird perches on the windowsill,
caws, takes a trinket: death in the family.

A rooster or hen crows at midnight:
death in the neighborhood.

An owl (Satan!) flies over your home–
you guessed it: death.

A dog howls three times in a row, after dark.
Death, but to whom?

Stand behind the beast, gaze over his head.
Suspended there, between his ears,

the face of one soon to pass.
Appalachian Superstitions as Told to the Poet

A menstruating woman should never
                          make kraut
                          be near cucumbers
                          be near mash
                          or attempt to can.

A menstruating woman should
                          study with a Granny Woman,
                          as her powers are abundant.

A woman who buys dreams
                          should avoid purchasing
                          the nightmares of children.

A man who has never seen his father
                          can cure thrush by blowing
                          into an infant’s mouth.

For faster growing hair, have it cut
                          by a pregnant woman,
                          or during the full moon.

Cows should be kept
                          in odd numbers
                          or the herd will grow ill.

Keep pigs around for luck
                          but do not pull their tails.

Hares out night:
                          servants of the devil.
Hares out in day: food.

Harassing a cat is the same as
                          harassing the local witch.

Spiders are servants of God.
                          To wake to a newly spun web:
                          exceptionally good luck.
~ ~ ~

Rosemary Royston, author of Splitting the Soil (Finishing Line Press, 2014), resides in northeast Georgia, with her family. Her flash fiction and poetry have been published in journals such as NANO Fiction, Appalachian Heritage, Southern Poetry Review, KUDZU, Town Creek Review, *82 Review, and STILL: The Journal. She’s the VP for Planning and Research at Young Harris College, where she teaches the occasional creative writing course.