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First Elegy for the Appalachians

I'd describe my forefathers the hillbillies and my Bible-thumping great Grannies
if the whole countryside in and around the mountains of Crumpler, North Carolina

weren't so sort of dead as in out-of-the-way and consequently almost empty-headed
like a spoon. As in the people who live there live up a sidewinder

the sidewinding likes of which only the dead can drive. As in a Chevron
now a percentage of the ecosystem sitting meager and dirty and silly and askance

with its pitiful little stream moving sluggish out back to nil. As in where are
the silver minnows? Where are the water moccasins and the water spiders

and the one old bridle from the 19th century horse rotted at the bottom
with only the brass mouth bit left lustrous among the rocks? There are good people

regenerating Crumpler and Grassy Creek with money from farms of Fraser Firs
and there's even a Committee for the Advancement of Art. But where's the pennyroyal

and the magic ginseng? Forgive me for being nostalgic, but where are the old timers
with their hats and rockers and ballads of privation in Wales and Ireland? Where are

the hogs gorging on chestnuts or sleeping under trees like the Devil's Walkingstick
and the Paw Paw? Naming trees is retrograde like evoking the Devil I guess

but my ancestors the hillbillies loved ghosts which they called haints just as much
as they loved whiskey which they loved just as much as they loved God

which according to my father was a blasphemous amount, so my guess is they must
lift themselves sometimes from their quaint graves and float tenacious to the New River

and in their fogginess curse us our trespasses and in their faraway fogginess
forgive us our terrible trespasses as I am talking a kindhearted people here

who I liken in general to sugar and who wouldn't ever hurt a fly,
bless their vaporous little gone-away old hearts, Amen.

Adrian Blevins

Appalachians Run Amok
Two Sylvias Press

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