A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Isabelle Shepherd


Guo Bin

The bruised petals of the Asiatic day-flower bloom briefly in Appalachia,
then deliquesce into the hollow of a cordiform spathe.
They form a sweet mass that lures bees in droves.

In August, the BBC reports from the Shanxi province:
“Young Chinese boy’s eyes gouged out in attack.”

Aster blooms in the shade of the West Virginia hills.
Heavy rains weigh down the heart-shaped leaves.

In August, on a Saturday evening in Fenxi, the boy is lured into a field
by an unknown woman, the sun lowering behind her—
a backlit face that welcomes the coming darkness.

The evening primrose effloresces after nightfall.
The sun drops attract moths for a spell, then wilt before daybreak.

In August, at a hospital in Taiyuan, the boy asks, over and over,
why dawn hasn’t come.


Try as I might, I cannot seem to untangle the idea of souvenirs from heirlooms. And so, my favorite souvenir, or at least the one that brings me the most comfort, is my father’s extra large black motorcycle jacket. The worn leather has greyed in the creases, still smells like him—thick and musty. After his death, I hung it on my wall. Now, it almost seems to be held up by more than nails—a ghost hanging around, his back turned from me. 

Isabelle Shepherd hails from the mountains of West Virginia, but she currently resides down south by the beach while pursuing her MFA at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. When she isn't writing, she's reporting the news for WHQR, the local public radio station. In her spare time, she battles cat brier in the backyard, expands her vinyl record collection, and paints her nails wild colors only to chip off the varnish the very next day. Her work has previously been featured in Tinderbox, Connotation Press, OccuPoetry, and Plain Spoke