POETRY March 3, 2023

Mimaw Burning Sage

Burying pancakes in whipped cream, Mimaw told me of the ways to rid a ghost, cause my Pop-Pop was the meanest fucking one she had ever dealt with. It had been nine months since they moved into this house after the state built a six-lane highway through their old living room. It had been eight months since he died on the kitchen floor, rolling on his back like a June bug, mouth foaming. She told me to search, under couch cushions, in Pop-Pop’s jars of coins, her purse, my purse, to find all the pennies we could. We bought sixty cans of salt at the Mad Butcher and started with them. Spilling their contents in her yard, over daylilies, under the chain fence, past dead birds the dog collects, then inside over windowsills and thresholds. All the while, she placed a penny in every corner of the house: the laundry room, the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the guest bedroom, her room, her bedroom, and even in the backs of closets. She bundled sage in her shaky hands, as small and wrinkled as a coin purse. She lit the perennial plants and chanted. This is my house. You are not welcome. This is my house now, you are not welcome, Gordon. This is my house, damn it, you are not fucking welcome. This was not the first time I watched her rid his ghost. She had scrubbed the floors, sold his truck, his boots, and books. She had drowned in the bottles of Wild Turkey that he used to hide at the bottom of the kitchen pantry. She took down the wedding photo—veil sticking out of her beehive, gappy tooth grin, his hand gripping the back of her neck. But, still, a year later, in her backyard, Mimaw will stir the fire until  

she buries embers
of damp leaves and hollow sheets,
below the blue ash.

Erin Pinkham is a queer poet from North Texas. Her work focuses on coming-of-age, girlhood, and queer issues inspired by life in the south on her family’s tomato farm. They are currently a poetry MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. In addition to the topic of poetics, she will often be heard gushing about anime, spellcasting, her dog Willie, pink-velvet fabric, and the Korean boyband BTS.