Posts Tagged ‘poem’

Memorial Day at Poplar Forest

May 25, 2008

Photo of Poplar Forest from a nearby Baptist conference center’s tourist info.

Tomorrow Barry and I will make our fourth trip to Poplar Forest for Memorial Day. Here’s a poem I wrote on the first visit.


Thomas Jefferson
rode the ninety miles
two days on horseback
three by carriage:
this octagon villa
his retreat from public life
at Monticello.

Sated on soda bread
a magnum of wine
we stretch out under the farthest surviving poplar
watch cumulous clouds dock and disolve.
One evokes a falcon
its swoop of wings, its talons.
Above us, the bough trimmed severely,
the poplar’s leaves crowd in along remaining wood
as if to compensate for phantom limbs.

On the house tour we learn
Tom’s slaves cast and laid a quarter million bricks
according to his design directly to clay
with no foundation.
After one hundred eighty-seven years
the skeleton of bricks remains intact
paint scaled off a coat at a time
then plaster, all stored to stoppered test tubes:
archeology essentially a deconstructive process.

Ghost marks on bricks
reveal a mantel here
a chair rail there,
let us glimpse the future restoration.
I prefer this bare brick:
strained backs of men and horses
beneath the great man’s surfaces.

And speaking of Memorial Day, here’s a baker’s dozen from NewsTrust on the Iraq War, something to keep in mind as we mark the day tomorrow.

  1. The Sergeant Lost Within NYT–Reviews
  2. Book Review – ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ NYT —Reviews
  3. Soldier-Brothers See All Sides of War AP Reviews
  4. Feeling safer, Iraqis come home APReviews
  5. As soldiers fill Sadr City, militia fighters wait LA Times Reviews
  6. Iran ‘paid Iraq insurgents to kill UK soldiers’ Daily Telegraph Reviews
  7. The Return of Iraq’s Ayatollah Time Reviews
  8. U.S. Teams Start Work Of Restoring South Iraq WaPoReviews
  9. Iraq Vets Get Poor Health Care, Americans Say in Harvard Survey Bloomberg
  10. War and service: Remembrance and debate Balt Sun Reviews
  11. Controversial Contractor’s Iraq Work Is Split Up NYT Reviews
  12. Congress declares budget war LA Times Reviews
  13. Pentagon public relations program investigated AP Reviews


July 31, 2007

Photo of flyrock damage accompanies Jerry’s (no last name listed) article on mountaintop removal at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s Canary Project. (email)

Appalachian NightmareFor Mary Ellen Kelley (c. 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.)

The dream comes over
and over, facts off, not how
it happened, when at

seventeen, I stood
on crutches, not able to
run, not just crippled

but doomed, transfixed by
some subliminal signal
understood too late:

a half-ton boulder
hurled towards our cabin’s kitchen.
Then, otherworldly,

the flyrock stopped short,
rived by a sharp stone standing
sentry in the yard.


Each time I dream, though,
the huge boulder plunders on.
How can I feel cold

while fear smolders? The
flyrock navigates a path,
careens through some hole,

comes to rest beside
a small bed. In a flashlight’s
beam, a toddler’s dead.

This makes no sense since
it was daytime, I survived,
I was seventeen.

For months I try to
cipher hole, light, bed. Nights I
lie awake—this lacks

logic, but I think
if I can avoid sleep I’ll
somehow save the child:

if I can keep out
dreams, I’ll invalidate fate,
somehow stop the stone.

I finally drag
to my doctor for drugged rest
then referral to

a shrink who tells me
I’m not at all crazy: real
life alters in dreams.

I can’t help wonder
why details would be so wrong–
why now, after years?

I stare up behind
our homes: A&G plans mines
stolen with faked maps.

I can’t help but think
the nightmare’s not my past; it’s
other folks’ future.


Author’s note: Since participating in the West Virginia Writers Mountaintop Removal Tour, readers of this blog know I’ve been doing a lot on that issue and the related one of liquid coal (a bad idea.) Bob Henry Baber and I have been in contact, and he’s informed me that a WV lowku should have anything but 17 syllables. (He sent me a book with one of his lowkus, which is actually longer than I remembered.)

Despite this, I’m still working on meta-lowkus which I guess qualify because they have 17 squared syllables: 5-7-5 stanzas of 5-7-5 syllable lines. My concept is to do a whole manuscript which will be a meta-meta lowku: 5 on this series about Jeremy Davidson’s slaughter in Wise County, VA. This first one is about my friend’s recurring nightmare that predicted Jeremy’s death, a nightmare everyone thought reflected PTSD from her own near- miss from a flyrock, Another will be about the mining that cause the death, one about the actual death, one about the town’s reaction and one set two or possibly three years later which would be now.

If I finish this, there will be seven on deep mining, including the Pittston strike, the Battle of Blair Mountain, and disasters including Sago and Buffalo Creek. The last section is five poems on Coal River Valley in WV, including the poem I already posted, which has now been published in the Summer 2007 issue of Appalachian Voices.

Comments welcomed!


Spent today at the New Media Center learning how to upload pictures and manipulate them in Adobe Photoshop. There’s now an online bio and picture (Greg Moneyhun took of my before we tore down the NRFP office) at Campaign Trail’s wiki.

Mary Hill and I met to go over poems at lunch.

Finished the above poem and then didn’t save it correctly, so ended up at Mike’s to rewrite it from my last saved draft.