Jessica Spruill

The Girl from Spall Lick Road


I need to tell you that for twelve years, the sun 
rose at noon and set before supper. 
Looking down on that sunless valley 
from my hillside rock perch, I wished myself far up and 
out of our dark holler. I wanted to pull it like 
a weed, shake the soil, and uncurl the earth
worms from its roots; let it blow away dry. 


I wasn’t the only one who saw angels wandering up
and down the gravel road on nights the moon 
hid her face behind the trees. I watched wondering 
why anyone would come back here. I counted 
my blessings on one hand, the other bound tight 
in my sister’s clenched fist. We weren’t afraid 
of angels—we were afraid of ghosts. We had learned 
to pretend things were not what they were. 


I have to tell you how we kept secrets. How they kept us 
weeping beneath blankets all hours of the night. 
The sound of young girls swallowing screams,
pretending to be asleep—but big brothers stop
falling for make-believe, so sisters lie—still 
waiting their turns to be touched like women. 
It’s what I’ve been meaning to tell you all this time, 
but I couldn’t get my fist out of my mouth.


One morning I woke to the creek licking 
the ceiling of the basement. Black water drank
all sixteen steps, curled its long tongue beneath
the door, and lapped at the tattered linoleum in the kitchen. 
All night I prayed the brackish water would rise 
to meet the raindrops held high in the Sugar Maple. 
I prayed the dirty waves would rip through our house, 
purge every room, but when the flood receded days later, 
it left everything behind: silt in every corner, rust-red stains
I knew we’d never get out. 


Jessica Spruill is a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She is an Assistant Professor of English at her alma mater, Alderson Broaddus University, in her hometown of Philippi, West Virginia. She also serves as faculty advisor for the university’s literary publication, InFlux, and faculty advisor for the Lambda Sigma Phi sorority. Jessica is the founder and coordinator of Wordstock Wednesday, a local reading series. 


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