When I was a girl
God willed the churches along the Elkhorn River
Stay pristine white
Coal dust never touching
The road as close
as Eve’s snake
Now the steeples keep themselves clean
Rising above their abandoned sanctuaries
And crumbling tipples
Even God won’t stop
The combat of mountains exploding
And coal trains lurking past
Escaping with all the potential
© 2016 Melissa Currence
Here is Akhmatova’s line I chose:
And the road to the churchyard
Is a hundred times longer
Than it was when I carelessly
Wandered along it
This poem’s setting is McDowell County, West Virginia, which I was excited to visit in 2013. My grandma was born in Gary, WV. I loved both the Rocket Boys and Glass Castle books. In doing some research on this poem, I came across these great websites, if you’re interested in learning more:
Let’s Stay in Touch!
Here lies Octavia (1875-1888)
I breathe out the dandelion seeds
and roll in the hay bales
I push up the ryegrass
to grip their roots.
I run my scarred hands
in the thistle nests
and pat the ruts to keep them worn.
Dust rouges my cheeks
as I swing around the peeling tree trunks.
I’ve watched you
since the devil gripped my foot in the stirrup.
You have also absorbed death
between each sunset for a century.
I wish you could hear my song
and your laughter could
echo with mine,
that we still had a life
among these slaty hills.
this is nowhere for the living.
© Melissa Currence 2015
This poem came together because of Halloween and listening to my mother’s stories about our family. She retold me the story of Octavia, who died when she was 13 years old after a horse riding accident. This picture is of her gravestone from 2013, 125 years after she died.
While the idea of the poem came together quickly, I worked on it for days. Since each word choice is so important in a poem, I can drive me crazy trying to search for the right one. I find if I am editing a poem a lot, I often have to look at the first draft to remember what I was trying to say.
What is your editing process? Let me know in the comments.
Let’s Stay in Touch!
Hi all – I wanted to let you know I have my first collection of poetry out, Tethered. The poems written here span a 10-year period, but I worked to edit them to represent two major themes of mine: the City and the Country.
I’m excited to share this! So here is a coupon code for everyone who is interested in checking out my collection.
2. Here is a coupon code for a FREE copy: CA64U
Yep, that’s right … it’s free, my babies!
Let me know what you think!
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