Over at the Store

Pa lives across from a country store. Been there for years. Ownership has changed several times. He goes over to eat dinner ’bout every day, sits at a table in back. Swaps tales with local farmers, like in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Road is coming through and Pa fears it will take business.

Day before yesterday I ate with him there. Felt like going back in time, to when I was a kid. Used to be that we’d work til lunch then get on the back of somebody’s pick-up and go to Wheeler’s store and get a boloney sandwich (sliced ’bout thick as your hand) with a big ole hunk of tomato, an RC Cola and a molasses-flavored moon pie.

We still have a lot of country stores, but rising gas prices, by-passes and general “progress” are doing their best to kill ’em.

The current owner, from North Carolina has traveled all over. He’s a good old boy though, real down home. Talks twangy, like the rest of us and wears hunting boots. He ate with Pa and me. Told us tales of his travels and all the weird things that happen to him everytime he goes north.

Lot of laughing went on, big story-swappin’. I did not want to finish my burger, to walk out of the snap shot of yesterday. I want to hold the image for the rest of my life before the road carries it away.

Discovering Joseph Pablio

Zach Franklin son of Joe Pablio Franklin.jpg

 My great-great uncle, Zach.

Great-great-grandpa

left Mexico at a time

when nobody did.

He worked for a soldier,
a farmer, a preacher,
made wooden shoes and bowls,
the way he had south
of the Rio in his youth

He married Black Irish Nancy
then changed both their names
to Franklin. He signed with an x

and told the clerk he was White.
She filed his marriage under
“colored” where I found his middle initial

was his mother’s Mexican name.

Ghosts of Tebb’s Bend

 

They say if you go ’round
midnight, you can hear
soldiers crawling up the bluff.

Leaves crunch beneath their boots,
Confederate wagons roll
across the blank bridge
and wounded men holler

as cannons blast and iron
balls whistle through air.
Maybe you’ll think you see,

but when you look again
it’s not there. All I know
is, I’m leaning over this rail,

watching the full moon
stare back at me
in rippling water.
I feel summer night wind

and the only sounds
I hear are the long ago
shatter of widows’ hearts
and these words marching,

with soldier feet, marching
inside my head.

Hillbilly Days Festival

Peep o’ daylight

we lit out 

to the West Virginia border,

to Deedie Moe’s trailer

at the foot of a Kimper mine;

we stayed the night,

slept on the floor,

cause he ain’t got beds

to speak of.

We woke with coal dust

caked in our noses

and fog in our eyes,

then climbed into trucks

and rode on over to Pikeville

to put on a show for tourists,

what come to the mountains

to see

an endangered species.

Sawmill Man

My daddy wears sawdust
on his gray cap
and powders himself
with timber dandruff.

At night he walks,
across the soggy bottom;
pulls his shoes off,
sits barefoot on the porch

where he smokes,
drinks instant coffee, black,
and watches us catch lightning bugs
in fruit jars.

Behind him she rises,
that old haint, Sparks Ridge.
She looks over the valley to claim
the magic of his life,

a working man’s family,
to gobble us up
and take us down,
like oak tree roots,

take us down,
down, down,
down to her belly.

*first published in Other Voices International Vol.20

What Progress Left Us

Used to be a mountain

back yonder, behind the house

rose up like mornin sun

jest as purdy as ye please.

T’aint there no more,

some men with money

came up here and blew it

to smittereens. All’s left

is that nasty hole o’ black

water, iffen ye kin call it thet.

More like the slush

in the bottom o’ pap’s

outhouse.

To learn more about the cost of mountain top removal visit any of these links:

http://www.christiansforthemountains.org/index.html

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2007/09/mountaintop_ministry.html#more

http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/02/16/reece/

http://www.hugg.com/node/1202

http://www.bookrenter.com/products/details/9780976881711/Coal_A_Poetry_Anthology/?utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=cpc [I have work in this book]

http://www.blairmtp.com/CoalAnthology.htm

“I’m honored to be here with you. We’re an endangered species, we hillbillies. Massey Energy is terrorizing us in Appalachia. Little old ladies in their 70s can’t even sit on their porches. They have to cut their grass wearing respirators. That’s how these people have to live. The coal companies are the real terrorists in America. And we’re going to expose them for the murdering, lying thieves that they are.”

—Julia Bonds

The World’s Two Great Evils

Plastic and politics are the devil.
Plastic multiplies like flies
or roaches,
filling up cupboards
and cracks between
refrigerators and walls,
just waiting for its lord,
lord of the flies.

Politics are laden with lies
and lie with liars
then get up feeding lies
to gullible masses
who stand like
baby birds, mouths open,
waiting for their father,
father of lies.

__________________

*for those who understand and those who don’t wouldn’t even if I explained it.

Panthers

When I am alone in their woods,
(which may be any woods at all)
I walk softly
with iron backbone
and steel eyes.

Jaguars walk these hills
dressed in cougar skin,
calling their catamount
calls among bear caves
and beaver dams;

they say I am kin
though breath catches
in my throat at sight
of their tracks and
hair stands
frozen.

A Novelist’s Gift

“It’s not right for me,”

said the big New York agent

about my story.

 He wanted an exclusive.

I waited two months while

he looked,

two months after two

years of waiting

on the one with enthusiasm.

“I can sell it!”

she said.

She didn’t.

So I write again,

not query letters,

just poetry, just stories

and I give them

to hearts that need

to hear, like Holy Spirit

gifts and God-love,

not for sale.

Too priceless for tags,

but if someone offers,

maybe…I’ll consider.

Testimony

Passion flowers smell chocolate
in white dust
along tobacco patch edges
while Caribbean skies
lie over Appalachia,
like a lover,

speaking sweetness
to her in valley cane
and swamp marshes
where dragonflies
glint blue above
brackish dog day water.

This world belongs
to mountain children
where the South rises
with every oak, every pine,
every hundred year old pear,
rises from death
rich earth

to testify.

I Want to Know

Should I feel guilty for porch
afternoons beneath mimosa fragrance
and magnolia blooms

for hummingbird whizzing
and wind chime songs?

Should I have shame for my beneath-
the-bush lazy cat and red geranium
pot swan, for shady side streets
swept by westerly breezes?

When Iran and Iraq are bombing,
when a hundred other places fight
and California is hot? When England
is flooded and bees die?

Should I dig a hole, hide
and wait for trumpets,
or just teach a child to read,
then give thanks for my corner
while it still exists?