Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer in Vandalia

This week's Bus ride brought me straight back home to West Virginia and the summertime kick-off festival in Charleston, the Vandalia Gathering. The festival features traditional music, storytelling, dance, arts, crafts, and food, and a way of keeping the old ways alive for the young. I t is always held on Memorial Day weekend and feels like the beginning of summer.

To see where this week's trip took the rest of the passengers, visit Bill at Usually Confined.

By way of explanation for the title:

In 1768 Benjamin Franklin and the Great Ohio Company proposed the creation of Vandalia as the14th colony. It would have included almost all of present West Virginia, except for the Eastern Panhandle, and much of Kentucky. The name was a gesture to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who proudly claimed descent from the Vandals through her birth to German nobility. The plan almost came to fruition in 1772-74, until the deteriorating American political situation made the British government back off.

The word Vandalia became synonomous with the desire for a free government in the mountains of West Virginia.

Summer in Vandalia

the fiddlers tune their fiddles

the neighbors spread the straw

the children hunt for lizards

beneath the scented boughs

there’s a hush of empty churches

the pansies still survive

the birds are stalking berries

old men are telling lies

stories for the children

who kiss their sunken cheeks

banjoes pluck at heartstrings

up and down the streets

hearts are valves a’leaking

mountain music in the air

it’s summer in Vandalia

my senses take me there

Thursday, May 27, 2010

For Our Sins

On April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine trapped and killed twenty-nine coal miners inside a mountain in my home state of West Virginia. On April 20, 2010, a British Petroleum explosion in the Gulf of Mexico triggered a spill of up to 19,000 gallons of oil a day, one of the most devastating man-made disasters of our time which continues to this day. In my mind, the two disasters are inextricably linked. Sometimes I just do not understand what we are doing to ourselves and our world.


In the hills of West Virginia
we thirst for living water,

so we go on Sundays
at morning and at night,

and on Wednesdays, too,
we go, looking for a well

that isn't poisoned by
the runoff of our sins.

Someone said the Gulf
where fishes used to leap

is sacred, dead sea water,
but with men holed up

inside the mountain
gasping like the fleeing fish,

we can't imagine baptizing
ourselves in oil and gas and brine.

So we settle for a sprinkle
from polluted heaven’s springs

and mourn the lost that failed to flee

these poisoned, deadly streams.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dance, Little Girl

The bus is up and running again, and I made it home just in time to jump aboard!

This week it's being ably driven by the lovely poet Teressa Wellborn of The Chocolate Chip Waffle. Visit Teressa for links to other Poetry Bus poems on this week's Keith Carter photo prompt. Here's mine.

Dance, little girl,

Dance, litle girl,

Whirl and twirl

Faster and faster

Until you master

The music as it flows.

Dance, little girl,

Dance, little girl,

Whirl and twirl

Tighten and tighten

Until you lighten

The chords inside your soul.

Dance, little girl,

Dance, little girl,

How quickly shifts the light;

How sudden comes the night;

How color goes to gray;

How darkness ends the day.

Dance, little girl.

Dance, little girl.

Dance yourself away.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

early morning flight

When I left, you were face down in the pillow
Gone somewhere on your own,
So I stood a while in the doorway,
My hand raised in blessing and goodbye.
I thought how this could be the last
You ever saw of me and yet you slept
Unknowing, unaware that I was gone already,
Had packed my bags, had taken the keys,
Was far away in flight, above the roof, above the trees,
Yet standing in the doorway, my hand raised
In blessing or goodbye,
Standing on a distant bridge of morning
While you dreamed me by your side.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Who said that red is angry?


from loving

raw witness;

soft buds,

wide open

rosy mouths,

the world’s business

a ruby glow --

sticky sweet,

the bees are drunk

on cherries

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I want to be

The poetry bus is running on Monday, and I've decided to jump on early with this poem that accidentally fits Padhraig Nolan's prompt. We were to choose a particular picture (see here for directions) and write a poem to accompany it. This picture just fits my mood. I've been way too serious lately, so it's time to lighten up a bit!

I post this with apologies to all my trashy friends, but sometimes,

I want to be

one of those trashy girls

in the too tight jeans

and the too short tank tops

that I saw on the porch

of the biker bar

on Route 60.

I want to stand

with a beer in my hand.

I want my curls long and loose.

I want to wear high heeled shoes

or platforms.

I want my toes peeking out,

my nails painted blue.

I want a tatoo.

I want to go somewhere

with the wind in my hair.

I want to be full of sass.

I want to kick somebody's...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In the Valley

In the Valley

I expect when I get to the valley of the shadow of death,

I will find a whole forest of petrified souls,

A horde of giant rocks as far as I can see,

Crowded in together but standing each apart.

Some, like Lot’s wife, will be casting craggy glances

Over their shoulders, straining for the land of milk and honey,

Wishing someone would start the game all over

So they could learn the rules;

Others, stoic as those terra cotta warriors,

Will face forward with their hands still on the hilt

Unflinching and ready to take whatever comes their way.

Some will be massive, silent and implacable as Stonehenge.

I think my soul will be small and hard as flint,

A little me-shaped boulder wedged against a barren hill

Where I’ll wait for a weeping savior to heave me away from

The cavernous dark inside which, like Lazarus,

I find myself hobbled and bound.