I COME FROM A PLACE SO DEEP INSIDE AMERICA IT CAN’T BE SEEN / Kari Gunter-Seymour

I COME FROM A PLACE SO DEEP INSIDE AMERICA IT CAN’T BE SEEN

White oaks thrash, moonlight drifts
the ceiling, as if I’m under water.
Propane coils, warms my bones.

Gone are the magics and songs,
all the things our grandmothers buried–
piles of feathers and angel bones,

inscribed by all who came before.
When I was twelve, my cousins
called me ugly, enough to make it last.

Tonight a celebrity on Oprah
imagines a future where features
can be removed and replaced

on a whim. A moth presses wings
thin as paper against my window,
more beautiful than I could ever be.

Ryegrass raise seedy heads
beyond the bull thistle and preen.
Everything alive aches for more.

First print: Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Volume XII

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PAIN-RIPENED

Because her job was to stay clean and thankful,
mostly invisible, as though telling her what to do
told her who she was, she rubbed basil

between finger and thumb to breathe the inside
of a thing, walked the verges of muddy stream,
sugared ridge and hilly breast, clear

of knotted root and dirt-wrapped wire,
color-flushed on wildflowers, her mind a buzz
of song, psalm and sonnet.

Here. A dead bird. A tiny Christ, riven
in light, her sorrow lifted in wisps and moans
to the mouth of the wind.

Shedding blouse, skirt, tender garments,
she opens her flesh to pain-ripened sun,
sways to the pitch and pluck of sky.

In some languages to be carried
is the same as to fly.

First Print: Fearless Women, Mountain State Press 2019


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DAUGHTER-IN-LAW MINE, ONCE REMOVED     

There is a wall on the US/Mexico border
made of surplus steel and wire mesh.
A thousand miles worth,
back yards and alleys in Chula Vista,
as far up as Temecula.
Children stand on our side,
poke tiny fingers against those
hardly even holes for the slightest brush
of their grandmother’s fingers,
pressed inward from the Tijuana side.
I saw it in Time magazine and cried,
my own fingers urgent, the iciness
of your Colorado stand-off, rigid
as anything man-made.

Surely you remember this rich Ohio soil,
ripe to bursting, water pure, pastures plush.
A woman can make her way here.               
I don’t care about the details, who was right,
who should have gotten what, but didn’t.
I don’t mind that you will never
love again, and hell’s to pay.

I care my body has gone to wrinkle
and the world to concrete and convenience.
Tractors traded for fracking augers,
though this parcel will never fall,
long as I can steady a shotgun.
With no partner but a wall to cling to,                                 
what’s balled up can only bounce back.
Raised without old ways, a granddaughter
might never make out why
her body aches for seed and trowel.

Riffling National Geographic, it came to me
to send this telescope, highly
recommended for its ability to reflect.
Along with the moon and stars,
help her please to look south of Lake Erie,
by way of the Appalachians,
then east-by-southeast.
Tell her that’s her grandmother,
top of Beck’s Knob, waving a white hankie.

First Print: Still: The Journal, 2017

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AN APPALACHIAN WOMAN’S GUIDE TO BEER DRINKING

Belly up you beautiful thing, strong-legged
and twang-drawled, raised holler to mountain top,
rich in root, fed on lard biscuits and bacon gravy.

Lick at the long-necked bottle, your tongue
a divination, your face a fist, two sweat-moons
where breasts ache to swing and sway.

Unclasp those bindings and all who contrive them,
their straps and underwires camouflaged in curlicues,
icy hands groping, the pitiful way you must offer
bits of your body, your land, to earn so little
as a pine-splint stool at their stars-and-stripes table.

Drink to the twisted torch of freedom, washed down
with fracking waste, red clay dust, the bitter soot
of coal’s see ya later sucka! Say Hell yes!
to the crack and splinter of misogynist pulpits.

Give rise your manifesto, each word
draping the bud-point of every bough,
your body, your land, never again obliged,
your song a rush of wings, like souls releasing.

First Print: Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, 2019

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Foto: Meghan Hall

Kari Gunter-Seymour is a ninth generation Appalachian. Her poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press 2020 Expanded Edition). Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Verse Daily, Rattle, The NY Times, and on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. Her work was selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey to be included in the PBS American Portrait crowdsourced poem, Remix: For My People. She is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) (www.womenofappalachia.com) and editor of the WOAP anthology series, Women Speak, volumes 1-6. She is Poet Laureate of Ohio.

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