Hang Her Washing Outside


by Elizabeth Horner Turner

A ghost worries her out to an Appalachian cabin 

with a pine wraparound porch. Pitch

sticks her fingers together, presses her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

What do you want? stays stuck inside her throat, but she pushes

against the door until it gives way.

Over and over and over, this dream, until even when she wakes

the ghost rests in her skirts, a pair of red boots,

under her mother’s old sweater.


She knows the movies where someone else comes back to do the saving—

the strong pair of arms pulling up or out—

then they always become lovers. But not this.

She doesn’t get the candlelit hair-washing or the wooing

by debt-clearing superheroes (save that one Triple-A man

with a knack for finding keys).

In her windowed corner, there’s always the empty chair.

Every dust bunny’s been cleaned out by her fingernail;

every word scratched in linoleum by her hand on the ice pick.


She knows she’s got to remember this herself:

breathe, then write it down;

wash out her clothes and find something that’s not sharp but round. 

Elizabeth Horner Turner’s poems can be or have been found in Cutbank, Fairy Tale Review, Gulf Coast, H_NGM_N, and Nightjar Review, among others. Her chapbook, The Tales of Flaxie Char, was published through dancing girl press. She's been awarded a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to attend the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and was selected as a Poetry Scholar for the Tin House Writer’s Workshop. She lives in San Francisco, and tweets (sometimes) at @lhornert.


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