Friday, 15 January 2021

Pack Horse Librarians

by Kari Gunter-Seymour


I mean no disrespect when I say,
during the Great Depression
Eastern Kentucky was a sundered area.
Surrounded by mountains and waterways,
no easy access in or out, nor any proper
education, until the WPA employed
our grandmothers to packsaddle
literacy to the underserved.

This would be the only good thing
coal would do for Kentucky,
coal and the Presbyterians,
donating books and endowment,
twenty-eight dollars a month to any woman
with a horse or mule, and the spunk
to stand up for progress, brave the weather,
backwaters and hollers, to deliver emancipation
by means of bound dissertation.

You need to understand, this was Appalachia,
just before the war to end all wars.
Only women of disrepute were considered
working women by the church.
Christian women labored in the kitchen and fields,
birthed, prayed, died in them, albeit
many Christian women were taught to read,
if for no other reason than the Lord’s word
could be used to hold her back.

But this was the New Deal and all bets were off.
Imagine my grandmother, top of her head
barely level with the saddle’s front rigging dee,
flaming red hair, a brand of sass all her own.
Packing up at the Pine Mountain Settlement School,
Harlan County, creek beds as roads,
on foot, single file, across crag and clifftop,
sleeping in barns or lean-tos against the cold.
Deliberate as any lineman or mail carrier,
every treatise she carried, a nugget
of gold inside her saddlebags.


* * * * *

"Pack Horse Librarians" is part of A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020)

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020) and Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press 2018/2020-Expanded Edition). Her work is firmly attached to her home soil and is an examination of the long-lasting effects of stereotype and false narratives surrounding Appalachians. Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Verse Daily, Rattle, Still, The NY Times and on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com
. She is the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year and Poet Laureate of Ohio.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Daughter-In-Law Mine, Once Removed

by Kari Gunter-Seymour


There is a wall on the US/Mexico border
made of surplus steel and wire mesh.
A thousand miles worth,
back yards and alleys in Chula Vista,
as far up as Temecula.
Children stand on our side,
poke tiny fingers against those
hardly even holes for the slightest brush
of their grandmother’s fingers,
pressed inward from the Tijuana side.
I saw it in Time magazine and cried,
my own fingers urgent, the iciness
of your Colorado stand-off, rigid
as anything man-made.

Surely you remember this rich Ohio soil,
ripe to bursting, water pure, pastures plush.
A woman can make her way here.
I don’t care about the details, who was right,
who should have gotten what, but didn’t.
I don’t mind that you will never
love again, and hell’s to pay.

I care my body has gone to wrinkle
and the world to concrete and convenience.
Tractors traded for fracking augers,
though this parcel will never fall,
long as I can steady a shotgun.
With no partner but a wall to cling to,
what’s balled up can only bounce back.
Raised without old ways, a granddaughter
might never make out why
her body aches for seed and trowel.

Riffling National Geographic, it came to me
to send this telescope, highly
recommended for its ability to reflect.
Along with the moon and stars,
help her please to look south of Lake Erie,
by way of the Appalachians,
then east-by-southeast.
Tell her that’s her grandmother,
top of Beck’s Knob, waving a white hankie.


* * * * *

"Daughter-In-Law Mine, Once Removed" was first published in Still: The Journal and is part of A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020)

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020) and Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press 2018/2020-Expanded Edition). Her work is firmly attached to her home soil and is an examination of the long-lasting effects of stereotype and false narratives surrounding Appalachians. Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Verse Daily, Rattle, Still, The NY Times and on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. She is the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year and Poet Laureate of Ohio.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Peanut Butter and Ritz Cracker Sandwiches

by Sand Pilarski


We rode in the back of the red pickup truck
Huddled against the cab.
We slowly turned on hairpin curves
To reach a trail that stretched for miles.
Through jack pines and past granite piles
Away across the top of the long mountain.

In bright sunlight over newly frozen ground
Scarlet sugar maples
Shed their leaves, unlike modest oak
Who cover nakedness and hold
Throughout the winter's icy cold
Their leaves high above the mountain's two-track road.

There we were freed to run as fast as we could
And as far as we could.
Shouting, screeching, waving our arms,
Stopping to look at hardy moss,
At teaberry we came across.
At ground pine and the pockets of skifted snow.

Peanut butter and Ritz cracker sandwiches
And fresh-dipped spring water
Awaited us when we were done.
In gratitude we praised the fare
Delicious as we lingered there
Where cooped-up children could stretch their autumn legs.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Innkeeper’s wife irate over loss

by Carolyn Martin


I could spit! I shouted in his face.
Turning paying guests away!
He brushed that couple off without
so much as, Maybe we could find … .

When will he learn? The Census earns
five years of room and board,
but lugging wood and curing hay,
learning isn’t on his mind.

Of course I’d carve a plan. I’d hearth
an extra rug to keep her bundle warm.
He and that soft-eyed man would share
a bed. And when it came her time, 

we’d march those smelly shepherds far
beyond the barn and hush those wings
and aggravating songs. Enough to drive
dreamers from their restless sleep.

And, the publicity we’d glean!
destination site, at least.
Not every day do morning stars
and cameled Kings ruckus through

our town. We’d be well-mapped,
well-known for hospitality, 
not the butt of half-lame jokes.
We lost the chance. I’m furious!

Know what’s worse? That dotty neighbor
with the rotting manger molding hay
lets strangers muck across his barn,
dropping coins to say they’ve been.

Now he roams his days across the hills,
singing sounds like tidings, peace,
and human hearts. Who talks like that?
I’d like to know. Who talks like that? 


* * * * *

"Innkeeper’s wife irate over loss" was previously published in Mistletoe Madness, 2015.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 125 journals and anthologie  throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments will be released in 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Light-catcher

by Jill Crainshaw


“The stars are falling–”
was she asking or announcing? 
“a sign of the times.”

A rocking, smiling moon 
slid beneath the stars–
to catch them, perhaps,
as they tumble
through turbulent times
to a light-hungry earth? 

“She will hold the pieces,” I said
and smiled back at the hopeful moon–
bent on cradling the aching light
until she is full–
one more time.


* * * * *

Jill Crainshaw is a poet, preacher, and teacher. Through her writing and teaching, she celebrates life’s seasons and seasonings. She and her two dogs, Bella and Penny, look for poems each day in their back yard. Sometimes Jill writes them down. Check out Jill’s most recent book, Thrive: How professionals 55 and over can get unstuck and renew their lives on her website, jillcrainshaw.com.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Old School Dream

by Claire Massey


Covid 19 rages like a fifties era
tyrannical stepfather who buzz cuts his hair,
embraces wrath of God doctrine,
grounds you for the slightest infraction,
juke joint dancing, wine on your breath,
a seconds late curfew violation.

Last night I dreamed I was retro living
in the Age of Aquarius,
the water bearer’s constellation brimming,
spilling overhead.
My boyfriend kissed me
in the commons garden.
Mogen David flowed.
Gently stoned friends smiled,
blessing unguarded union,
him in his surplus bell bottoms,
me with my waterfall hair,
so abundant.


* * * * *

Claire Massey is the Poet Laureate for the Pensacola, Florida branch of National Pen Women. She was a selection editor for the 2019 print edition of The Emerald Coast Review. Among other publications, her work appears or is forthcoming in Persimmon Tree, Panoply, Wilderness House Literary Review, Flights 2020 Magazine and Saw Palm: Journal of Florida Art and Literature

 

 

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Mother

by Sharmila Pokharel


If I go home
I will find my mother
doing the household chores,
tears rolling down her cheeks

With the dream of earning more
I am rushing on and on
towards success
counting each second and each minute

While she cleans the same dishes,
prepares one meal after another,
cleans again and counts the days again

As the mornings, afternoons, and evenings pass by,
her body stoops a little more
her eyes get blurred a little more.


* * * * *

"Mother"
was previously published in Somnio: The Way We See It, a collaborative book project of three poets and an artist including the author

Sharmila Pokharel is a bilingual poet from the Himalayan country Nepal. Her third book is a bilingual poetry collection, My Country in a Foreign Land, co-translated by Alice Major. She is a co-author of Somnio: The Way We See It, a poetry and art book published in 2015.