Because it is Spring in Appalachia by Bonnie Proudfoot

Because it is Spring in Appalachia

and the rain has stopped pummeling
the solar panels on my roof,
I begin noticing things,
the rush of green outside hits me
like a fanfare, the sun
sparkles in every droplet,
and then I realize
the applause I thought I heard
was not applause at all,
it was a pair of small birds
pecking away at the inside
of my walls because they decided
that their new nesting place
could be that little hole
in the space between the eaves.
And there it is, the outside world
has come home to roost. And me,
I couldn’t pull the trigger of the 22
on the groundhog in the blueberries,
I try to save the planet,
not just for me, alone, but so I
can share it, but not my house,
I think, yet that is
what is happening now
and here I am,
still hoping to return
to Aaron Copeland in my mind,
but the wide world has other ideas,
like a new station on the dial,
these little syncopated taps,
call on me to act or be acted upon,
and isn’t that what I secretly wanted
from this ragged, unfinished life?

*

Bonnie Proudfoot has had fiction and poetry published in the Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Quarter After Eight, the New Ohio Review, and many other journals. Her first novel, Goshen Road, published by Ohio University’s Swallow Press (2020) was selected by the Women’s National Book Association for one of its Great Group Reads for 2020. It was Long-listed for the 2021 PEN/ Hemingway Award for debut fiction, and in 2022 it won the WCONA Book of the Year Award. Her poetry chapbook, Household Gods, is forthcoming on Sheila-Na-Gig this summer. She lives in Athens, Ohio, and in her spare time she creates glass art and plays blues harmonica.

Watoga 2021 by James Cochran

Watoga 2021

Craigslist Ad:
I have lost my mojo (Orma)
“Lost my mojo need someone who can help me find it”

Somewhere between Anhedonia and Ataraxy
we drive east on the turnpike in torrential
downpour, passing old man in rusted sedan
with driver’s window down completely.

Is it broken, or is he just looking to feel something?

Still raining in Rainelle, West Virginia,
then we outrun the storm passing
Sam Black Church, town named
after church named after
19th century Methodist preacher.

Miles and hours pass by,
rain slows to a drizzle,
we turn north on 219
past signs reading:
“Trump 2024”
“Jesus Saved Me!”
and “$1.00 Hot Dog!”

past Pleasant Green M.E.
old white church where
former slaves lie buried
in a graveyard the forest
is busy reclaiming.

On the fence of a small pasture,
sign in neat letters declares
“My Name is Rocket”
and a small white pony,
totem of equanimity
grazes on wet grass
looking unperturbed
by the sheer velocity
with which he hurtles
through space.

*

James Cochran is a proudly Appalachian writer, transplanted from the soil of Southeastern Ohio to the hilly streets of Charleston, West Virginia. He embraces the practice of mindfulness through writing, and writing through mindfulness, and enjoys listening to the neighbor’s wind chimes. James believes in the power of writing to access and understand our shared experience in a way that can heal and empower all of us. His current writing is strongly place based, like himself a mixture of rural and urban, and strongly rooted in the present moment, while also seeking links with past and future as a path to better understanding and acceptance of the now.

Five Poems by Kari Gunter-Seymour

BONE THIN

Sunday morning, the alarm set
for dawn, I gargle lemon water
to loosen phlegm, open vocal cords.
Mother postured at the piano, paces me
up and down the major scales,
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

I dress in a starched white blouse,
an A-line skirt hemmed precisely
below the knee. Mother stands behind me
in the mirror– cat eye glasses, Pentecostal bun
– hot-curls my ragged mane into
a semblance of respectable.

Later, in the choir loft, mother leans,
her coffee breath all over me,
whispers loud enough
for the soprano section to hear,
You’re too pretty to be so fat.

*

BECAUSE COAL

The last stars arc, dim the sash.
Wails the pitch of a coalmine’s siren
quiver my temporal bone, a song to dig a hole.
My grandfathers, coal-caked, muscle
and blood, yoked to Peabody scrip,

sinking shaft or pit, railroad cars tippled,
cinder and soot smutting miles of track,
valley fills steeped in acid spoil,
one hundred years of forest sheared.

Pained as I am to reflect, my great-greats,
pigeon-toed, gap-mouthed, pondering
how the hard-working find themselves
both proud and begging, held fast,
like a flag that never waves.

Who hasn’t rationalized themselves
a noble son or daughter, their life tightly
squeezed between two fists?

Tonight, roaming the ether,
I visit their graves, blush-pink peonies
to decorate each stone. Saying nothing,
I write, one finger in dust,
Fire in our hearts, fire in our souls,
forever together, “down in the hole”

*

TENNESSEE HOMELAND

Daddy didn’t like watermelon,
he loved cantaloupe, “musk-melon”
our family called it. He would
cut one in half, scape the seeds,
add a shake of salt inside the cavity, feast.

Daddy and his people grew up
in Putnam County, bare foot, feral.
He declared cantaloupes grown
along the East Fork Obey River,
where the air sweats and melons
swell like teats on a bluetick,
the best on earth.

Every year, late July, our family
made the pilgrimage. He’d sniff,
and thump, roll them over,
looking for blanched spots
on their netted rinds, evidence
of ripening in the field.
Like all best things, they didn’t last long.

Come mid-summer, I’ll make my way
to Putnam County. In spirit, my Daddy
will ride shotgun, shirt sleeves rolled,
collar open, puffing a Parliament Menthol
as I speed down old Highway 53, mouth watering,
the bottomlands calling me home.

*

HARD TRUTH

Lakeside, crickets and stars,
my host said it was a Loon,
but the southeastern Ohio in me
heard coyote, the long slow wail
that comes from generations of hard luck,
skin sagging loose from the rib.

Considered the white trash of the four-footed,
you probably don’t know that tax dollars paid
fifty bucks a head to kill sixty-eight thousand
coyotes in 2019, or that forty-six percent
of Appalachian school-aged children
experienced food insecurity the same year.

Revered as first teacher by the Indigenous,
they say it was Coyote in the dark land of mists,
who called insects, birds and animals to council,
to decide if First Man and First Woman
should pass into the Third World.

Tonight, moon full, air brusque,
those forsaken dream of full bellies.
Loon flaps iridescent wings,
rears her dagger-like bill,
howls Coyote’s death song.

*

THE SOFTENING

The conversation began
with a false step, everything
that followed was a downward
plunge, the silence left
in the middle of a sentence.

Said she felt like she was –
what was the word?
Only to realize it was one
of the first she’d learned,
one of her earliest memories.

After that, to know
it could happen again,
did happen, everything transient,
leaving her like her child self,
struggling to fill the gap.

Elsewhere, people wake,
make coffee, listen to the news.
She is focused on the process
of loss, dropping dead words
into private conversations.

As if somewhere in the mix,
she might find an end
to the mortification,
or just one day the voice
inside her head does not judge.

*

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Serving, runner up, Yellow Chair Review Chapbook Award. Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Verse Daily, Rattle, Lascaux Review, The NY Times, and on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. A ninth generation Appalachian, she is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) (www.womenofappalachia.com) and editor of the WOAP anthology series, Women Speak. She is a recipient of a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship and Poet Laureate of Ohio.