Five Poems by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Amesville Girls

sip Squirt soda from lime green
returnable glass bottles pulled ice cold from
the chest cooler at Kasler’s corner grocery,
retrieve the dime, stuff it in the jukebox
at Fanny’s Family Diner, dance

The Bus Stop or The Sprinkler
to AC/DC, say words like warsh
and fixin’ to go, spit watermelon seeds
good as the boys, swim naked in the crick,

sneak out to sleep in the graveyard
to be closer to their grannies,
ink ballpoint tattoos on each other’s biceps,
wear fruit-flavored lip gloss to softball practice,

dream Guns N’ Roses’ tour bus
stops for lunch at the diner
and Slash or Duff McKagan
kiss their cherry mouths, finger
their buttons, white-knight them away.


Where We Come from Can Break Us

She was curious, always questions
from that one, a nine-year-old
going on twenty, sneaking
the backwoods to my porch swing,
earless to her mama’s played-out rebukes.

I was a new mother, alone
more than was fit.
The baby loved her singing
and she would brush my hair
for hours, jawing tales
about her made up life.

I often think of her hangdog
eyes and heavy lashes,
hope she was able to save herself
from that broke down place.
Who’m I trying to kid?


How Could a Woman

He could not climb in the driver’s
seat without lighting up a joint.
There I’d be, juggling bunting, bottle,
binky, strapping the baby in his car seat,
while my husband sat, rolling a fat one,
lip-syncing whatever was blasting
from the radio, sealing the deal
with nimble finger work,
a slick slip of the tongue.
He would key the ignition, flip open
a lighter, take a long slow toke,
cough hard enough to crack a rib,
ease into gear. What soured me most
was how pleased he was with himself,
that and the fact I stuck with him
for close on two years.


True Grit

Sweet Child O’Mine
spun throaty on the boombox,
only CD I owned. The baby
squatted in his second-hand
jolly jumper, clipped at the top
of the door frame—bouncing
as if the floor was a trampoline,
he an Olympic trainer.

I took the afternoon off work
to have my wisdom teeth pulled,
groggy from the laughing gas,
ticked off at my spouse,
who’d obviously been rolling joints,
leaving behind a whole mess
of seeds and stems, brushed
from coffee table to shoddy carpet.

Behind on the electric bill,
car tires bald, the twit once
hocked my high school class ring
to buy an ounce of pot.

I admit it. I allowed myself
to be diminished way too long.
I might never have culled my courage
had it not been for the baby,
the way he carefully cupped my jaw
as I lifted him from the jumper.
Love is or it ain’t.


Hanky-Panky Poker

We women dressed as if headed
to the French Riviera—frilly skirts,
teased-up hairdos, shiny lip gloss.
The men wore flannel shirts,
stunk of sour mash and tobacco.

It got intense. Five Card Draw,
nickel ante, quarter limit—
Texas Hold’em if we drank tequila shots.
There were some shining moments
before the whole shebang went briny.

Sarah Sipple called a nature break,
gone too long to the facilities
and Danny Munford who’d stepped outside
to do the same, got caught bare-assed,
Levi’s around his ankles, rutting Sarah
like some randied white tail buck.

All things considered, we switched
to Euchre, less hard liquor,
more chips and dip.
Danny Munford went tail-ass-tits to the wind.
Phil Sipple got hisself a new partner.


Kari Gunter-Seymour is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022) and A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila Na Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily, Cultural Daily, World Literature Today, the New York Times and A ninth generation Appalachian, she is the editor of I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, funded by the Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Women of Appalachia Project’s anthology series, Women Speak. Gunter-Seymour is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; the founder, curator, and host of Spoken & Heard, a seasonal performance series featuring poets, writers, and musicians from across the country; an artist in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts and a 2022 Pillar of Prosperity Fellow for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

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