Three Poems by Sam Campbell

Rural Legend No. 10: Elephant Execution

Murderous Mary

killed a man. Blood must have blood.

The guilty must hang.

Hung from a one-hundred-ton

Clinchfield railroad crane car. Dies. 


Rural Legend No. 8: Walking Sam

Come with me, I’m waiting
Take your life; give it to me
I will walk you home.

7-foot shadow follows me
Stalks us deep into darkness 


Rural Legend No. 7: Beast of Bladenboro

Cows lie parched of blood in puddles of water. Dogs sprawled in green grass, swollen tongues
lopsided, bodies dripped dry of lifewater. They call these “gruesome deaths,” try to keep
livestock in the barn, as if wooden panels and rusty nails can protect soft flesh from something
vaguely feline and very hungry. People see what they cannot explain and are limited to words
already learned: big cat, panther, bobtail, cougar, lion—in North Carolina?

      Explain this to me:
Since when do big cats quench thirst
With blood from the kill? 

Sam Campbell is a writer and teacher from Tennessee. She earned her English M.A. from East Tennessee State University, where she was editor-in-chief of The Mockingbird. She currently serves Arkansas International as managing editor, and she is the fiction editor and co-founder of Black Moon Magazine. She publishes across all genres; her work appears or is forthcoming in October Hill, MORIA, Poetry South, and Eunoia, among others. Her awards include the 2022 Jesse Stuart Prize for Young Adult Writing, the 2022 James E. & Ellen Wadley Roper Fellowship for Excellence in Creative Writing, and the 2021 James Still Prize.