Tim Barnwell is a local photographer who has several books that do an incredible job of capturing Appalachia. “The Face of Appalachia” is the first of three that ventures into the hills and hollers to preserve a way of life that I hope never dies.
Midway through, there’s a photo of an older couple in their garden and I’ve always been delighted with how she’s wearing stockings with runs in them. Proper, though worn, attire even when working in the garden. I love this woman–she makes me long for home. And so I wrote her a poem.
Waste not, want not was always
the way of it, though we wanted
often enough just the same.
Pie tins used over ‘til they’re good
for nothing but keeping crows away
and not much good for that.
The ole man can shape a new handle
for that rusty hoe and I’ll slip cardboard
in the soles of my shoes.
Make-do has a way of taking root,
of hanging ‘round my skirts
even when silver jingles in my palm.
The corn is up, the earth is damp
and the sun is shining, but back
in Bible days Joseph looked out
on a pretty afternoon and saw
seven years of lean coming on.
So today I’ll put on my old, worn
stockings with ladders in the heels,
help the ole man hoe corn.
I’ll wash and fold the tin foil
like it was hand-embroidered sheets.
I’ll line the windowsills with jelly jars
that sparkle good as diamonds.
We’re all of us climbing Jacob’s Ladder. Only,
some of us know what it’s leaning up against.