IN A REVERIE
A poet’s creek by farm and field
Still ambles through the glen;
It wanders past my idle feet,
And I remember when
In my bitter hour of youth
His voice sang like a lark
From the parceled and printed page
Into my wounded dark.
Inside a lonely hermitage
None yet had fared to reach
I opened a door to harbour
The schooling in his speech
That spoke of nature’s loveliness,
A quietude in her,
And in these aged hills a home
For my soul’s wanderer.
I hearken to the poet’s creek
That babbles in the dale;
If now its babbling could be known
‘twould tell a knowing tale
Of pensive eyes stayed on its stream
For a moment to think
And leathern hands at rest from toil
That cupped a cooling drink.
Though I must wait for my passage
To an eternal sphere,
There he at last will tell his tales
Unspoken to my ear,
And we will talk of our speeches,
Those poems fixed in rhyme
Penned from a past swallowed in death,
Far gone from age and time.
2014 Bettie Sellers Poetry Contest Winner
Wheelchair on the Beach
An old woman in a wheelchair is pushed
Toward the ocean by a middle-aged woman.
It’s slow going – the sand soft, the wheels
Bogging down, not turning. Red-faced,
The woman shoves, strains, digs
Her feet into the hot sand to inch
The chair forward, sliding more than rolling it.
The old woman, wrapped in a white robe,
Clutches the dark blanket in her lap.
Her hair is a small white cloud, her face
Sharp and fiery.
Carrying my cooler
And umbrella, heading for the parking lot,
I’m embarrassed to be staring, staring
Anyway, torn between admiring
Their resolve and hating their foolishness.
Who could think this was a good idea—
The old woman yearning to touch the ocean
One last time, feel salt on her papery skin,
Or the younger one, daughter
I decide, wanting something meaningful
I drive home remembering
The chair mired in damp sand, the old woman
Facing the waves rolling toward her,
Her daughter – the chair handles holding her up –
Leaning over, her head touching her mother’s,
Her whole body heaving to catch its breath.
2014 Bettie Sellers Poetry Contest Notables
Still marking Pope with a spit-slick pencil, she asks
Who saw you picking through the trash? For I have prayed
to the god of houseplants: Make me the woman
who rescues aspidistra from the bin at the mouth
of the alley, no longer she who abandons them in extremis,
make me the one to grasp the withered stalk and smack
the cracked pot hard. Let me cradle the knot of pothos roots
like fledglings in my palm, coax them to move secretly
within the tender soil. This plastic stick promises blossoms
like snowfall – cascades of pristine petals, a cataract
of tiny flowers, of white mittened hands – and there, she
asks again – You’re not going to give that to anybody, are you –
shuts the book, and leans against me,
a sleepy sun dropping down behind the shelter
of the mountain. Suppertime. Set Bacopa on the sill to
bloom again, to die again. Make me know
that even the dumb things have need, that love is service,
that what we have can be enough. Yes, hope springs eternal.
What we’re not, we may yet become.
After the Last Visitor Leaves
Heat strafes the air, shock waves
of palpable pressure settling against my skin.
Shadows crease corners of the yard,
thin lines offering no respite
to black-eyed susans, blue hydrangea.
Behind the daily news,
your taciturn mask, our grief
behind my quiet question,
What will we do with all this food?
When you don’t answer, I take the plates
to the kitchen – see her pink sweater
hanging in the hall. Watch the clock
tick another second.
The Dance Instructor
Perhaps because he extends his arms
when the music starts
and you enter the frame of his body.
Perhaps because you give him your right hand
and with your left let your fingers circle
the flesh above his elbow,
feel his taut muscles, as you both draw in.
Perhaps because he tells you to relax,
to let your hips move with his
and to let him twirl you over and over
until you are afraid you will become dizzy.
But especially because he laughs (as you do)
when you don’t follow his footsteps
and choose a pattern of your own.
Because he has given you moments
when you feel light, even suspended,
where you float as a raft on a gentle sea.
You forget that he wears too much cologne,
smokes, chews gum to disguise this guilty pleasure.
You don’t worry about the lines around your eyes,
your archaic hips, how painful it is
to attempt what he calls the Cuban Motion,
or to twist your neck in a tango’s flick.
Because he is old enough to be your son
you know this lesson is not about possession
or romance but a remembered desire and longing.
Because watching him dance
with other partners, you feel no jealousy
but instead a strange contentment,
loving the shape of him, how he winks at you,
flows across the dance floor, graces it,
lights up the room.
A Privy on the Appalachian Trail
No amount of Imodium I carried
kept the curse from moving.
Call it Still Life with Giardia:
An image of a young man
hunched on a rickety toilet seat
mounted to an unroofed platform
in the southwest Virginia woods,
his Wal-Mart raincoat absorbing
sleet and rain like soil and duff
soaks up the diseased compost
he passes to the pit below.
Exposed, he shakes, bent
like the wild turkey he sees
brooding over loam in the cove,
early Appalachian spring dyed
silver by such weather, not a thing
untouched—red oaks, laurel, ferns,
polyester, toilet paper, human legs—
all of it sodden in the haze shrouding
the slopes of Hurricane Mountain.
Was it by some romance he drank
unfiltered creek water back in Georgia
when he started on the Trail, the same romance
by which I remember the icy cove silver?
It will pass, this romance, pass with the cold,
pass with the shit that has by now turned
to earth, earth that I, too, soon will be,
earth the young man I remember already is.
APPALACHIAN CAROL # 5
In Choestoe, yearling rabbits crouch
in winter beds and watch the snow
soft-fall on cornstalks
browned and dry in valley fields.
On Walasiyi’s heights, the oaks
are bare, tall pines and junipers
alone lift up a somber green.
They wait the Star
that strikes a spark foretelling
resurrection, and wild azaleas’
flaming touch of spring,
through the coming of a Child
who still might kneel
beside the rabbits watching
from their fur-lined nest of straw.
Ants raid the bath, wasps claim the washroom,
even as the cool of winter looms.
The forsythia sings against a chorus
of green, yet the hue of winter looms.
The bunting’s a blur of vibrant blue,
off-setting winter’s gray loom.
Calves nurse in the open field, chilled
as the nip of winter looms.
Blood buds of azaleas burst forth
even though winter looms.
The creek hums a rain-filled song,
oblivious to the winter that looms.
Rosemary, thyme, and sage grow
in the sunroom, even as winter looms.
First published in Echoes Across the Blue Ridge: Stories, Essays, and Poems
Once again the earth
offers a season of renewal.
Syrup buckets in hand,
we trek to the Matheson Cove.
A rain crow lifts
mournful songs on Joe Knob.
A crisp breeze ruffles
my hair, beckons something within.
Wild roses envelop my senses,
light ricochets through mountain laurel.
Beside Hyatt Mill Creek,
the sight fills me with longing.
Purple stains, hands like India ink,
the sweet juice of huckleberries
spilling into my mouth.
–Brenda Kay Ledford
Black dirt sifting
through my fingers,
anchored to my roots.
The thrill of working
with my hands,
tilling the soil.
Cobwebs, clutter swept
from corners of my mind.
Digging the dirt,
hacking down weeds
that choke tender plants.
Extracting vines that twist
the breath from branches.
Energy radiates frozen limbs.
Connected to the earth.
Digging dirt–an antidote
–Brenda Kay Ledford
Both of these poems were included in my new poetry chapbook, BECKONING, that was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.
Photos from Another State
Whatever room for romping
a wide back seat offered in the Forties,
that day ours hosted a picnic.
My father lifted it out, lugged it
from the rhinoceros belly
of our black DeSoto.
In the shade by the curving cliff
it became table and bench.
My mother brought forth
sausage left from breakfast
and three oranges like Christmas.
Lyrics from the unseen
creek trickled through laurel.
This was before Alzheimer’s and chemo,
the one time the rhino
with its hood ornament like a horn
reached another state
without needing new parts.
This was after my father
paid a week’s allowance
for my photo with the Indian chief,
arms folded across his chest.
Beside the wigwam
I quivered in white sandals.
On the trip home in the back seat,
I spied on my father, his hand
making mysterious signals out the window
or pointing at something
I could never see.
Janice Townley Moore
Previously published in Southern Poetry Review
‘Neath Boughs of Evergreens
A struggling mountain farmer wrote
The treasures of his soul;
Near cornfields by a mossy creek
Where waters flowed stone cold.
The Blue Ridge shadows cast their gloom
Where untamed creatures dwelt;
His failing health clamped like a vice
When winter winds were felt.
The balladeer walked woodland trails
To view majestic scenes;
His hand and eyes recorded thoughts
‘Neath boughs of evergreens.
A rustic cottage was his home
With fireplace for its heat;
Poetic jewels from troubled hands,
The world would soon repeat.
There was a message in his head
That could not linger there;
Upon his tablet he inscribed
His inner thoughts to share.
But sadly he could not endure
His world of tough demands;
The man called “Hub” would slip away
Beneath the mountain lands.
Written as a tribute to Byron Herbert Reece
by Charles W. Cook of Macon, Georgia. A
native of Blairsville, Mr. Cook knew Reece.
He is a retired teacher.
To my friends not valley born
The Way of Things
still casts its
sounds to the wind.
Set into place untold
the mountain sings.
If you stand still
and listen you can
hear the music, the
Enotah sings of joy
and of love, heartache
and loss – if you join
you will be a part
of it all – you will
be a note played.
The mountain and
the valley will claim
you for their own,
who you are,
or a native stayed.
That is the way of it.
The way of things.