The candor of these mountains
will fracture your footing.

Flux of memory
sways in the excavator’s cradle—
spring grass and bluets
choking beneath the rich earth.

My darling, your baby teeth
will outlast you. Your mother’s
grandmother pondered smothering
the fires she lit in her summer
kitchen’s cranky black heart,
yet she fed that cookstove with logs
the size of stout babies. She fed
her young’uns and that husband
who bolted from dynamite hiss.

Deities slumbering in dirt
flustered the petticoats of daughters.
Ruby-slippered rhythms
posed bluebells for plucking,
wards against cataclysms of love
and earthmovers.

Some daughters were hybrid—
harlot and Christ-bride;

hearts became windows
lovers broke for exits.

How I watched your nana
clutch her hair, open steam-
whistle hatches, while seismic
words quaked her daughters’
egos. She interred in her craggy
embrace, as all cave mothers do,

those hard dolls,
anthracite trembling now
below the crust of your life.

What a shame
that burying your eye tooth
won’t sprout a legacy
worth heaven,

the alliance of coal and cloud,
fault lines and lightning.





DeAnna Stephens holds an MFA from George Mason University. Her poetry has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and has appeared recently in Cherry Tree and Rumble Fish Quarterly. In 2019, Main Street Rag published her chapbook, Heliotaxis. She resides with her husband and daughter on the Cumberland Plateau where she teaches writing and literature at Roane State Community College in Crossville, Tennessee.

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