Into the Valley
Carey Russell

Into the Valley

When she died, I left New York for this valley
            where the Appalachian hills hold the breath

of the dead between them and lift from each
            morning a fresh bandage of mist. I watched

the lowering, her coffin rocking into the ground
            like a cradle swaddled in gravel and dirt, 

the early fog sinking in so dense I could tear it
            into pieces like bread. I felt the gaze of the other

mourners follow me, their eyes scattering birds.
            A fine ice dusted silently, silvering my hair

into my mother’s. Cupping my hands, I gathered cold
            globes of breath and as I watched it whisper away

I wanted to know if the dead hold their mouths in their
            hands like this to know what is left of them.

When I left the valley, I took it with me, the train
            slicing the fields leaving its stiff suture.

Carey Russell

was born in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated with honors from the University of Virginia with degrees in English literature and mathematics. She lives in New York and works as a writer and researcher at Columbia University, where she is pursuing an MFA in poetry writing.