She plowed her potato fields at night.

The local farmers whispered, vampire.

Sunlight drained her body, darkened

the butterfly rash across her cheeks.

She was 27—illness had claimed her

spleen, gallbladder, & uterus,

& she could barely walk

or bathe herself—when the doctor

ran his finger down the test results

& told her Bad News. Lupus.

There is no cure.

After her husband backed over a porcupine

in their driveway, she took in its red-eyed baby,

let the orphan gnaw on a broken-down shed

because it was greedy for the salty wood.

During the day, when the sun's rays

scorched the earth, she stayed inside,

vacuuming flies off the ceiling

& sketching for solace—

carving light into the dark

charcoal with her rubber eraser

& cracking the stiff joints

of her milk-blue hands.

She wanted visitors to call first,

but all her doors stood open—strange

pickaxes & wire strippers prickling

on the walls, Chinese lacquer,

wicker, baggies full of hair

that had fallen out—& sometimes

the porcupine woke from its bed of straw

& waddled indoors, raising

its barbed quills & swatting its tail

at the dogs that snapped at its head.

It would bristle up her leg

onto her lap. Be real still, she'd say

to the few friends who came by.

Pet him in one direction only.