Sometimes a poem just comes from some small inkling. One day I got stuck on thinking about blood feuds, grief, and the dry taste you get in your mouth when you become outraged or cry too much. Or both. This is the fifth version of this poem.
“In This Land We Call Home”
Appalachian men spit dry corn kernels off dusty cobs,
tongues rasping like the husks in the July drought.
We all know, just know they’ll blood feud.
That’s the way of things. Then, we all know, we know
they’ll meet sunglasses, batons, cuffs, hot shit trooper’s bikes,
modern law from those who know better,
who know so much more.
Thunderheads crow and spit.
Hit! Hit! Hit the roots!
Muskrats ply clay and mud
hiding from the copperheads.
Do you bawl into the floor’s runnels?
In some stupid prayer to your guilt
you really believe that losing water makes us human,
shows the living that you care?
Sacrificing our birth is proof, you swear.
Rebirth, grief, penitence and supplication,
presenting the dead yet to come with
our fondness, our sincerity, or our daughters.
Our hope in posterity.
Eye is lidded, screwed shut.
Mouth drains dry. Dry. Dry.
Filled with sour desert stones.
lizards hide at noon.
To control is to refuse the girl in the dirt driveway
answers to her questions. “Where’d my daddy go?”
To refuse means cutting her ears with a buck knife,
maybe here tongue and then smiling as if to say,
“That’s the way of it,” and leaving her for the coyotes to circle.
“And where to?” the feuding brother ask.
“Where then to in this land we call home?”