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Once upon a time
(and this is before you or I
or your mother or the dry disappearing women
who live under bridges were born)
words—had meanings unlike today’s.
Night, for instance.
And Alone. Alone, alone could fill all the space
between all the yellow cities on the map with a hollow
more empty than the echo of the emptiest of moved-from homes,
dust where the dresser was, a penny, half a toothpick.
But we live in pre-owned valleys and cook
on the stove that came with the house.
Wearing heirloom language to work, to regret,
to shop for our suppers, we name common things.
And say we die and go to heaven.
Call the yellow night sky black.
Copyright Barbara E. Young. From Heirloom Language by Barbara E. Young (Madville, 2021)
Barbara E. Young, her husband Jim and their two cats live in White Bluff, Tennessee, near Nashville.
A house in the Rush Historic District, an abandoned mining town in the Ozark Mountains (photo: Keith Dotson)