by Sheldon Lee Compton
At night he drinks pints of black and throws spit from the mountaintop, cupping his hands at his mouth, the old dirt of the ridgeline pinched beneath his fingernails. Hours spent digging for ginseng.
The ridge is his property line, is the edge of his world. The family pushed him off the porch years ago, boot-toed him across the yard until he could stand and make his way into the hills.
When he speaks, the words leave him as spring rain leaves the clouds in sunlight.
And when he speaks it is with words tied by strands of wind. He says mostly these words in this way – love, hurt, mother, father, babies, mine, marriages, children, babies, woman, mine, women, hurt, alone, nothing, mother, father. The words weave into one another and in the end they become a single wail across the valley.
To the knuckles he pushes his fingers into the overgrowth at the base of the cliffs. The roots are there. He pushes into the old earth with his muscles, the bones of his arms and shoulders, tearing away the bloodline of the plant.
It's how he gets to sleep before daybreak, tiring himself out before the stirring moon has a chance to remind him again of all he has lost.
And when he remembers, it is the throwing up again of sunlight words in the darkness.