written by: Michael Ball
Blue porch ceiling must match blue window frames.
Quite brown, very round and close to the ground,
Ruby was a Carolina matron
layered in the now and in Sea Islands.
Magic was as central as Lord Jesus.
Such lore crossed over between saints and haints.
She largely raised, for just a little pay,
four blond critters, the offspring of others
while her own mother raised her three youngsters,
for free, except for kisses and cooking.
Painting my own front porch roof in haint blue
to repel non-existent haunting things
in honor of Ruby’s Gullah notions
would amuse me, if not protect the house.
Once at a dusty crossroads in Cross Hill,
Ruby re-sized me up. She claimed reason.
I kept company with one of her blondes.
Her touchstone measured my soul and courage.
In cotton house dress, with fingers laced tight.
she had to ask me, eyeball to eyeball.
My test was, “What would you do if a haint
came down the chimney and went after you?”
Without pause, I told Ruby I would stand.
(I did not add that ghosts did not exist.)
Ruby stared open eyed into my brow.
She then replied, “I do believe you would.”
Clearly, standing would not be her choice.
No space differentiates haint and saint.
The varied dead have powers we permit.
Simple folk are prepared in heart and mind
for haints that ambush or come straight at you.
Photography – © Lake Lou / Wikimedia Commons /
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