Tagged: Landgraff

Poem: Pristine

A Norfolk Southern train hauling coal in Landgraff WV

A Norfolk Southern train hauling coal in Landgraff West Virginia


When I was a girl
God willed the churches along the Elkhorn River
Stay pristine white
Coal dust never touching
Their clapboard
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

The prompt for this poem came from my good friend Kristi, who challenged our poetry group to be inspired by the poem fragments of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova from the anthology of her work.

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:

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