Bell to bell is how I learned to listen for the sound. Like a myth, I wandered the years of my childhood. This is before I took a hatchet to my darkness and sliced through the eye of my addiction. Ferrum is a holler below the slope of Rocky Mount. Ferrum lives outside the howling of the train that runs through it. I live in Ferrum, inside the taste of sour cherries perpetually on my lips, the hands of my adolescence resting comfortably around my neck. The pine trees are still green. I checked on them last week. I asked the question: What are you doing here? I am the expert of wrapping myself up in an unlit secret. The tenderness that comes with the remembrance of Uncle E-bow. Can you hear him? He is playing Hangman on the dulcimer from 40 years ago on Mary Ellen’s brick patio. I am screened in and trapped on the other side of the garden patch. My grandmother, in her wheelchair, spinning in dancing circles. She was a diabetic oracle. She’d hand you the truth from her biscuit bowl. She told me that Willie Nelson was the only true redhead. She eventually rattlesnaked her body and departed. How she woke me from my sleep in the afternoon, with the spectrum of her exhalation. Her last pronouncement was my name. She said my name like no one from the grave. I was standing in my childhood the whole time watching her watching me. There was lightning in her voice but it was still soft with her timbre.
CHRISSY STEGMAN is a poet/writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, but frequently haunted by her grandparents who lived in Ferrum. Her work has been featured in various journals, most recently Rejection Letters and Gone Lawn. Her work is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Red Ogre Review, Stone Circle Review, and Fictive Dream. She is the recipient of the 2022 Patricia Bibby Idyllwild Arts scholarship for poetry and placed second for the 2022 Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize. She is a 2023 Best of the Net Nominee.