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The Hair of the Dead Still Grows in the Grave

Miriam Bird Greenberg

The children discover this written in an old science book,
and to the cemetery they go, down the dirt road overgrown

with wild pink roses that tangle in the ditches
and climb through the windows of emptied houses.

Thrown over their shoulders are folding shovels and sharpshooters.
What if the dead women have hair to their ankles? asks one.

What if we can sell it a wig-maker? says another.
It’s probably lost all its color. Who’ll buy a wig of witches’ hair,

they say, eyeing the wild manes of algae
combed through with creek water as they cross a slatted, sideless bridge.

The cemetery is a wilderness of hackberry and Osage orange; a possum
scurries from the road’s margin to crash in the underbrush.

They dig all morning and on past afternoon. At five feet,
one’s spade turns up splinters of rotted wood, husks of bone

printed on the inside like the capillaries of a leaf. One
turns up a grayed thread of chain from a necklace, flings it into the air,

and the others jump back, shrieking. Don’t touch it,
it might be cursed. One lies in the fork

of an Osage orange’s arched branch, watching to see the ghost
emerging from its grave. One runs her finger

over the strange language of prayer books
written on the pitted stones. One touches the strand of chain

hidden in her pocket as they walk home. The humming
of electric lines, and of threshers circling their fields

is a witch’s voice lost to the wind.

Miriam Bird Greenberg

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