“Cousins,” “Origins” and “Lurking”

Photo by Malachi Jacobs on Shutterstock


Crickets signal the need for sacrifice,

a thanks for good harvest,

appeasement for the war gods of winter.

The frost is overdue.

Near the end of October,

the mosquitoes hum and bite

as I still sit on the front porch.

Today I watch the taillights of your truck recede

down the narrow one-way street.

The changing of the leaves

signaled your need to depart

before the biting cold returns.

Our visits this summer were an archeological dig,

a mining of memories, resurrecting artifacts of the dead.

So many years from our hard-scrabble farmer roots,

we pick up particles of death and

call them family stories.

We visit that small West Virginia county our people called home.

No farmhouse now on Bloody Run,

a rusty, shell of a footbridge dangles over the creek,

the steep hillsides required a scythe to cut the hay.

No signs people ever lived here,

never owning the land, no graves left behind.

We find the old high school, the church,

and discover, in aimless driving, a sign,

directing us to a familiar cemetery.

Nearly obscured by trees,

branches over-hang the road,

lean from high banks above it,

crowding us toward the center.

A lean-looking man, eyes us with suspicion as we pass.

More deer live here than people, always have.

We climb the hill to the end of the road,

a cleared, mown cemetery and

point to family names surrounding us.

You worry we will be perceived as trespassers,

I say if we do not belong here, who does?

Later, we check out the one-room schoolhouse.

a plaque lists more family names.

All summer we have come together and departed,

always confirming, questioning, re-telling,

until in autumn’s chill I am grateful for respite.

I put aside the bones of our ancestors,

turning my thoughts to the miles

you have already traveled and

wondering if we will ever meet again.


We gnaw the bones of our ancestors,

Meat long gone, seeking the marrow.

As dawn breaks, a vortex of dead

surround us as we merge into the light.

Even the shadows have shadows here.

At the abandoned farmhouse,

trees cocoon us in quiet,

we take respite from the sweltering heat.

Old Blaze roses claim the fragile front porch,

seem to hold it together with thorns so wicked

we do not pick any for remembrance.

Weeds and vines encroach, crowding out once riotous

peonies, bachelor buttons, zinnias.

Farther out the skeletons of dead fruit trees

are shadows of themselves,

and their shadows, leafless,

spread long fingers across the landscape.

In the woods along the creek we seek memories

of crawcrabs scurrying under rocks,

minnows flitting in the shallows.

The dry creek, silent now, gives no solace.

The only sounds a strange susurration,

like rain on leaves, but not rain,

instead frass and leaf bits dropping through the canopy.

In the distance the eerie scream of a rabbit

tells another story of loss so other life can continue.

Once the family here hunted rabbits and groundhogs,

sprayed insecticides on caterpillars,

but it is the people who are gone,

returning the land to nature.

Saddened, sobered, we turn to leave,

one last view of the old house

collapsing in on itself.

Only echoes of children running in and out,

slamming the screen door now hanging by a hinge.

Bird babies now in rooms once housing human babies,

who grew, left the nest, did not return.

The grass, bleached and dried by the sun,

only the grave of the old dog still green

having provided its own fertilizer.

The sins of our fathers wash over us,

let the blessings of our mothers cleanse us,

nothing the same since Grandma died.


Darkness makes us vulnerable

reaches those deep spaces inside

where fear resides,

overtaking rational thought.

Fear tastes of iron and copper,

smells of sulfur and methane,

sounds like snarling and shrieks in the night.

We construct our beliefs from the debris of our lives,

promises never kept,

loves lost,

fear holds us back from the richness of life.

Fear has a companion,


Hate is always looking for a new home,

hate is lazy,

builds on the foundation prepared by fear,

saves its energy,

lets fear do the heavy lifting.

About the Author

Deborah Filanowski

Deborah Filanowski was raised and educated in West Virginia, adulted in PA. Plan B Press published her chapbook "...and guppies eat their young" in 2001, 2003 and 2011, and she has published in The Write Launch in 2022, Aphelion, and PPS Winning Poets, in 2021 and 2022. After a career as a substance abuse counselor and manager, she returned to writing poetry and participates in weekly workshops with poet, Craig Czury.