It’s still raining in the mountains. My dirt road is a stream, and it’s chilly on the porch, so we’ll need to sit by the fire for our session today. All this is just not favorable for writing. Well, maybe it is, but I’ve written enough “dark and dreary” poems for now. Why don’t we just have a cup of tea and talk for a bit?
Have you noticed how many poems and stories there are about where we (writers) came from? I was born in Kellen Hollow in Eastern Kentucky, and when I was around seven we moved to the city. I spent the summers and holidays back roaming the Kentucky hills, and I have dear friends from that time still. I think about those times often, and most of my poems in Paths From the Shawnee Spring are from that era, and about the people I knew.
A friend of mine passed a week or so ago. He was one of those men who became your pal after you met him. I worked in his blacksmith shop in the summer with his son. Well, work is pushing it. I really just manned the broom and ran errands for him, and he fed me. It was a wonderful time, and what a treat to be there when the old men came and gathered around, and told stories about the river, town, and the old ways. Their stories still come to me as poems and prompts.
When the blacksmith shop closed he taught in an industrial arts setting, and did welding jobs to keep his family. He was a special person, and I will miss him.
You’ve known men and women just like him. They will feed your writings if you let them. They have so many stories to whisper to you. I was thinking about him this morning, and I have a poem to share that is about my friend Ellis, and others who went away to make a living, but always had a special love for home.
How many of us crossed the Ohio for jobs and education,
ate in diners and beer joints while searching for our
own people; making little Kentucky communities
wherever we could? Always living in
West End something,
How many of us sat and told stories about home after
working double shifts at the shoe factories, or sweated
on assembly lines; used our last dollars for gas so we
could spend a few hours smelling honeysuckle and
visiting around the Sunday table,
before heading back north?
How many of us died in coal mines or driving
gravel trucks down snake-back roads so we could
hang onto a small piece of sacred mountain land
that our kin had fought to keep, after riding flat boats
down a river into the unknown?
How many of us would push the dirt off our faces,
stand up out of our graves, put on our boots and
do it all over again?
All of us who call ourselves Kentuckians would.
Robert W. Kimsey 2008