Haints in the Trees

By Nancy E. Allen

This humid morning walking the dogs in the woods, my face is tearing spider webs woven across the trail, and sticky, entombed fly bodies latch to my hair, despite my efforts to shake them out.  I think of a trip last summer, how I drove past fields of tobacco, peanuts, and cotton, past hand-painted signs nailed to trees warning me Get Right With God and Jesus is Coming.

Sometimes I’d notice stands of oak and poplar in the middle of acres of crop – the waste of arable land. But even without gravestones the loggers would have recognized burial ground there.  Long gone the locust fencing and squares of wood

marking the dead. There was never a plaster lamb at the head of an infant who lived a month, who was named only in his final fever so God could call him something other than Child.

No, it was surely something different that staved off the work crew: the way the ground there gave under foot where roots wove their way down around remnants of pine caskets, around skulls and femurs, drawing up nutrients of decayed flesh until the trees themselves were part human.

It may have been how the leaves turned and whispered; how sharpened axes slipped from wood cutters’ grips. I see them backing away from that gathering of haints in cool shade, backing into full sun, stumps and churned-up earth, their heads teeming with ghosts, no matter how they shook, their mouths full of secrets.


Nancy E. Allen is a criminal defense attorney, and yoga studio owner/yoga teacher living in Southwest Virginia.  Her poems have been published in Gargoyle, Tar River Poetry, Sow’s Ear Review, and New Millenium Writings, among other publications.

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