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 Carolinaweren’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 sidewinderthe 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 askancewith 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 spidersand 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 peopleregenerating 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 pennyroyaland 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 arethe 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 guessbut 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 Godwhich 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 Riverand in their fogginess curse us our trespasses and in their faraway fogginess
forgive us our terrible trespasses as I am talking a kindhearted people herewho I liken in general to sugar and who wouldn’t ever hurt a fly,
bless their vaporous little gone-away old hearts, Amen.
Copyright © 2018 by Adrian Blevins
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Adrian Blevins is the author of Live from the Homesick Jamboree and The Brass Girl Brouhaha; the chapbooks Bloodline and The Man Who Went Out for Cigarettes; and a co-edited collection of essays, Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia. She is the recipient of many awards and honors including a Kate Tufts Discovery Award for The Brass Girl Brouhaha and a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Foundation Award, among many others. She teaches at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
Winner of the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Prize
“Blevins has found the sweet spot, building narratives that riff, stories that sing in the voice of the most combustible, lowdown country song sung by a ‘punk rock of a country heart.’ … Death, for Blevins, is blah, … but this poetry, cascading forward via a zillion ampersands run amok and a hilarious, provocative grief, is blah’s badass antidote.”
“A proud daughter of Appalachia, Blevins gifts us with vivid glimpses of where she came of age. Reading her beautiful, linguistically limber, cascading descriptions is like shooting the rapids with an expert river rider at the helm.”
“This book has all the speed, longing, sweetness, cruelty, and sorrow of time passing (as it most surely does) through the body, anybody’s body. The intelligence of the body doing the speaking here is both ferocious and generous, self-aware in the most forgiving ways—its power feeds off a deep humility in the face of the awesome daily facts. It moves me, it really does. It is also often funny as hell.”