If you’ve followed my blog very long, you’ve probably seen mention of the fact that I grew up on a farm that’s been in my family for seven generations. It’s a big part of why I write about Appalachia and have such strong nostalgia for the past. Today I thought I’d share a new poem reflecting on a piece of that history . . . SEVENTH GENERATION How many greats does it take to reach back into the days when a cousin named Electa rode a broke down old horse four days across the mountains to find her wounded brother? A great plan indeed. The bullet broke the bone and lodged there. He ought not to have lived, but he said no Rebel bullet would kill him. So, instead of dying, he sang songs. Surely there was a rock of ages and a sweet hour of prayer, blessed assurance and great is thy faithfulness. Electa found him. Nursed him and brought him back a way that seemed familiar now. Today, paved roads hide that trail. Houses and cars a great washing up of flotsam in the wake of the past. Standing here, on land that’s been passed down and down and down, it’s easy to count back from seven. It’s easy to imagine that I, too, might manage something great.
The hero of my next story is Colman Harpe. I chose the name Colman for two reasons–first, he’s inspired by Jonah (the one swallowed by the whale) and both of the names–Jonah and Colman–mean “Dove.” The second reason is that I grew up knowing a fellow named Coleman Ware who was a local fur seller. Dad took him many a hide for a little extra cash and had quite a few Coleman stories in his repertoire. I even wrote a poem about him. COLEMAN WARE His house, as knock-kneed as he, holds to the hillside with claws buried in the flesh of a mountain. He kills for a living, steel-jawed traps have tongues quicker than the black snake coiled beneath the shed thriving on spilled guts. He opens the bellies of his liveliehodd with a flicking blade and a line of talk that flows sinuous, like blood. He piles hides in a corner. Case-skinned, hollow animals lack only heads and feet; lack only claws and teeth. Wiping death from his knife on a dirty pant leg, he cuts into an apple. Slicing chunks of fruit against a steady thumb he eats from the blade as one who knows how all our stories end.
I’m SO excited to be presenting at this year’s WV Writers Summer Conference! I so enjoy talking writing and sharing what I’ve learned thus far, but to do it back home in West Virginia . . . well, you can’t beat that with a stick! PLUS, I’m hoping I can sit in on sessions being led by some of the […]
I’ve loved Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay since I first saw The Outsiders movie. I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever cried at a movie. The poem is so gorgeously bittersweet. To me, it’s always spoken of that moment in autumn when nature is at it’s most perfect. You just want to seize the instant and somehow preserve […]
This seems to be my year for collections. While I don’t have a full-length novel coming out in 2018, I do get to be part of two collections releasing on October 1st and 2nd. I’ve already written about The Christmas Heirloom novella collection releasing 10.2.18, but Vinegar and Char is something else altogether. When it comes to writing, my first […]
I had a wonderful time at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest this past weekend. I had a chance to teach a class, sit on a panel, and interact with readers (and writers!). Some of my favorite things to do! On Friday I sat in on a poetry workshop with former Wisconsin poet laureate and Kentucky native Max Garland. It took me back to my first love–poetry. It’s such fun to sit with a group of other folks who are passionate about stringing words together in a meaningful way. Which made me realize I’ve never shared my favorite poem (of mine) with you. So here you go–one of my earliest published poems that appeared in Appalachian Heritage way back in 2006. SAD STREAKS AND WEEPY MERINGUES Illness, death, disease and even divorce bring out the mixing bowls, the spoons, the flour, the sugar and the speckled brown eggs. Good women converge in kitchens on far sides of town, all for the expression of love and sorrow, sadness and hope. They consult stained cookbooks, faded cards and memories sharpened with use to concoct something that will stave off the hunger for knowing what comes next—what comes after we get through this . . . And when the pound cake isn’t quite done, with a soft, moist middle that invites us to sink down and find an almost peace— When the sugar in the meringue doesn’t quite melt, and caramel drops bloom like […]
No, not the states below the Mason Dixon Line. I’m talking about the cooperative store started by farmers in Virginia. When I was a kid, we’d go to Southern States to buy things like cattle feed, bulk dog food, bag balm, seeds, medicine for cattle, and SPRING CHICKS. Mostly, going to Southern States wasn’t all that exciting. The store had […]