The Road

Pauletta Hansel

Where I'm from, everybody had a flower garden,and I'm not talking about landscaping—those variegated grasses poking up betweenthe yellow daylilies that bloom more than once.Even the rusted-out trailer down in the green bottomshad snowball bushes that outlived the floods.Even the bootlegger's wife grew roses up the porch pillarstill flecked with a little paint, and in the springher purple irises rickracked the rutted gravel drive.Even the grannies changed out of their housedressesto thin the sprouts of zinnias so come summerthey'd bloom into muumuus of scarlet and coraldown by the road.Now driving that road that used to take me home,I think how maybe it's still true.Everybody says down here it's nothingbut burnt-out shake and bakes and skinny girlslooking for a vein, but everywhere I lookthere's mallows and glads, begonias in rubber tireplanters painted to match, cannies redas the powder my mother would pat highon her cheekbones when she wanted to be noticedfor more than her cobblers and beans.Everywhere there's some sort of beautifulsomebody worked hard at, no matterhow many times they were toldnobody from here even tries.

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Josh Miller

Pauletta Hansel is author of seven poetry collections, including Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award. Her writing has been featured in journals including Rattle, Appalachian Heritage and Still: The Journal, and on The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry and Verse Daily. Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate, Pauletta is artist in residence at Thomas More University, in her home state of Kentucky, and is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary journal of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. More about her writing, writing workshops and retreat can be found at

"It takes a certain kind of courage to turn and face the story album of our lives, and an accomplished artistry to develop snapshots into poetic portraits as Pauletta Hansel has done in Coal Town Photograph. There is a constancy of underlying comfort in these unvarnished poems even when they address difficult matters, including broken-heartedness. It would not be surprising if you found, as I did, meaningful echoes of your own life, your own people, in the tender narratives of Pauletta’s latest book."
—Susan F. Glassmeyer

"When I read poetry, I love the fresh responses and insights to life’s episodes, images that hold the chin of my attention in their light hands, nostalgia for the past, understanding of what it is to be here on this planet and in this world with the changing landscapes of body. I have found all of these needs met in Pauletta Hansel’s work, and especially in her new Coal Town Photograph collection."
—Ron Houchin

"'I have been gone so long I think perhaps I have invented it, this town…' Pauletta Hansel writes, following photographs as if they are maps that lead her deep into that cloud we call memory, we call self, we call home, in which all we see both is and isn’t, just as a woman’s body is, a mother’s, a girl’s. Just as Appalachia, its economy, its rivers, and soil. Coal Town Photograph is one part elegy, one part Bildungsroman; and at Hansel’s deft hand, in its coming-of-age, what has been lost is renewed, redeemed, remade. This is a fierce next book by a major poet in the Mountain South tradition.”
—Rebecca Gayle Howell

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