top of page

Poetry by Connie Jordan Green, Danny P. Barbare, Morgan Boyer, Fred Waage, and Larry D. Thacker

 

(Photo by Ben Bateson.)

Welcome, dreamers. I have always imagined that the poetry experience of Appalachian Places happens around a table in the corner of some favorite old spot, like the elongated circle booth by the jukebox at the much-missed Poor Richard’s on the corner of West Walnut and University Parkway in Johnson City. But this is your dream, too, kind reader, and you may prefer a table by the window in a 1920s Left Bank Parisian café, or a Greenwich Village dive from the middle 1950s. Wherever you imagine us to be, we are joined by five excellent poets, including my own first poetry teacher at the University of Tennessee, Connie Jordan Green. Danny P. Barbare joins us from South Carolina, and emerging writer Morgan Boyer from Pennsylvania. We reconnect with our earlier incarnation, Now & Then Magazine, with new work from a founding editor, Fred Waage. We have four unforgettable new poems from Middlesboro, Kentucky, native, and current Johnson City resident, Larry D. Thacker. Larry is my longtime poetry collaborator — we met during my first year of college at Lincoln Memorial University — and a dynamic visual artist and musician as well as poet and fiction writer.


Before we settle in with these fine poems, we need to place chairs at the head of the table in remembrance of poets lost in recent months: Bill Brown of Nashville, teacher and inspiration to many readers and writers in our region; Robert B. Cumming of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who published some of the most important books of Appalachian poetry through his Iris Press; and Fred Chappell, a native of Canton, North Carolina, luminary of American letters, contributor to Appalachian Places (read Fred Chappell's previous contributions here), and one of the greatest writers in our literature. Farewell to our departed friends.    


— Jesse Graves, Appalachian Places poetry editor




Connie Jordan Green: 'Coffee'; 'Putting the Garden to Bed'; 'Raspberries'; 'To the Streetlight That Isn’t There'; 'Silence' 


Connie Jordan Green lives on a farm in Loudon County, Tennessee. Her publications include award-winning novels for young people, The War at Home and Emmy (Margaret McElderry imprint of Macmillan, reissued by Iris Publishing); poetry chapbooks, Slow Children Playing and Regret Comes to Tea (Finishing Line Press); poetry collections, Household Inventory, winner of the Brick Road Poetry Press 2013 Award, and Darwin’s Breath (Iris Press). Her poetry has been nominated for Pushcart awards.   




Coffee 

 

My grandfather saucered 

his morning cup of coffee— 

poured the steaming liquid 

into the saucer, extended 

his upper lip and blew over 

the surface of the coffee, 

ripples rising like waves 

we kids imagined on oceans 

we had never seen, the mountains 

enclosing us as securely 

as the walls of the tiny kitchen 

where my grandmother stood 

before the woodstove, flipping 

Pa Bert’s once-over-lightly 

eggs just the way he liked them, 

pausing to pour more coffee 

from the stovetop percolator 

that bubbled and boiled,  

another morning in what 

my cousins and I thought  

was a never-ending childhood.




Putting the Garden to Bed 

 

Beyond the dying bean plants only the okra  

stretches tall, milky white flowers opening  

atop sturdy stalks — saucer for hummingbird 

and bee — tomato vines loosen their grip 

on the hog-fencing where they climbed all summer,  

and along the wooden fence, gourds dry, stem  

and leaves shriveled remnants of what once clambered  

hand-over-hand up the boards, crawled over the railings. 

 

Summer is done with the garden, has brushed  

from her skirts May’s hopes, June’s enthusiasm, 

July’s dogged determination, whining August.  

She has gathered her straggly children, moved on, 

only this okra, these few gourds, a handful  

of half-ripe tomatoes to wave her on,  

wait for what comes next, darkness sliding down  

the mountains, settling gently into this valley.




Raspberries 


His practiced hand  

plucked the ripe fruit —  

red raspberries, black ones 

gentled into a pail. 

Winter days he pruned 

the canes, cut away 

last summer’s fruited  

stems, gave space 

to the next crop, 

bloom and berry 

that would thrive 

on the silvery- 

purple canes. Fruit  

knew him, grew  

from his touch, 

vining berry or tree 

hung with apple, peach, 

plum or pear. His calm 

steps around the orchard, 

his quiet voice as he talked 

to me, explained sucker, 

water sprout, what should go 

to leave tree or shrub fruitful. 

Ten years after his death 

a last package  

of red raspberries 

lies shriveled in my freezer, 

my hand lingering  

over it, no will  

to toss this final 

tribute to his skill. 




To the Streetlight That Isn’t There 

 

Each evening here in the country, we praise 

your absence, night a dark coverlet we nestle 

beneath, only a lamp to light the book on our 

laps, to draw moths to our windows. 

 

Friend of city dwellers, you are not welcome  

where owls call their questions all night —  

who, who, who cooks for you? We leave you 

to those who want midnight bright as noonday,  

who fear the soft path through the woods,  

that trail our feet see without benefit of light. 

 

Last evening I watched the harvest moon rise 

like a pumpkin in the east, and in a few weeks 

I’ll stand beneath the bowl of sky where stars 

line up in their ancient patterns — Andromeda, 

Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Pisces — home to galaxies  

spinning through the heavens, light to our longing. 




Silence  

 

I am learning about silence 

how at the end of day a hush 

lies over the fields where 

earlier crows spread 

their ebony wings 

in the singing sun. 

 

I am examining the way 

water slips between creek 

banks, carries a mute leaf 

on its journey to become 

silt, forgets the melody 

that brought it over the falls 

and past the tuning rocks. 

 

I am studying the quiet 

in the room after you 

have gone, parsing 

the way shadows move 

from corner to corner 

spreading a blanket that 

stills the lingering 

vibration of footfalls. 

 

I am preparing for a quiet 

deep as the universe, a silence 

that moves among the spinning  

stars, a stillness disturbed 

only by the whisper 

of imagination. 




Danny P. Barbare: 'My Aunt and Uncle’s'; 'Sandburg’s House'; 'The View at Black Mountain'


Danny P. Barbare loves traveling in the mountains of North Carolina. Especially the Blue Ridge Parkway during autumn that has inspired many of his poems. His poetry has recently been published in Rapid River Arts and Culture Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, and Free Inquiry. Also, he has a collection of poems available through Barnes & Noble. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with his wife. 




My Aunt and Uncle’s 

 

I love to go here 

where the engine bell is on  

top of an iron 

beam pole,  

and dogs 

are barking in the 

boarding house, in my 

memory there are Tab 

drinks, a Cub Cadet 

for tilling soil and  

there is that  

sweet delicious cream 

corn, why I’m always going 

back for seconds. 




Sandburg’s House 

 

A Sunday drive to the 

mountains 

a house on a nook 

sunset, the village 

asleep 

under a hemlock tree 

historic 

thanks to Mr.  

Sandburg, poets  

following in his path 

around the pond 

dreaming of 

dirtying a piece of 

paper, the songbirds 

come calling. 




The View at Black Mountain 

  

The pen has a view. So it wants 

me to 

pick it up and make 

a picture out of words. 

The squirrel goes 

chirp, chirp 

as acorns tatter 

through the leaves of 

yellow, gold, red, and 

orange 

and bounce on the 

ground 

as a leaf wafts and 

swirls down. 

The sun shines on the 

wood as the cool 

shade is below. 

This a view as seen 

through the hotel room 

window. 

The ink sets at Black Mountain.   




Morgan Boyer: 'Me As a House Painter'; 'Gray'


Morgan Boyer is the author of The Serotonin Cradle (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and a graduate of Carlow University. Boyer has been featured in Kallisto Gaia Press, Thirty West Publishing House, Oyez Review, Pennsylvania English, and Voices from the Attic. Boyer is a neurodivergent bisexual woman. She resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 




Me As a House Painter  

 

If I didn’t have the “sacred” disease,  

I’d be a house painter who gets up  

 

with the chariot of the dawn, jumping  

into the car seat. I’d blast Yoasobi to  

 

annoy my country music-loving co-worker 

from the farmhouse in Fayette to the 7-11 in Greene 

 

I’d pull tape off as if to untangle a spider’s web,  

then I’d cloak the carpet in the child’s room  

 

with a sheet of splatters from rooms past,  

from the office of the old lady to the bachelor pad  

 

I’d blast second-generation KPOP to block 

out the whistles of the bearded men in white t-shirts 

 

who’d stare at my uneven rounds of ass,  

shrouded by patterned off-brand leggings  

 

I’d let the country-loving coworker blast Kenny Chesney  

on the way back to the warehouse where we’d part ways  

 

until the chariot of the dawn arose again  




Gray  

 

the gray of the coming dawn  

of another dreary day,  

filled with rain-tattered roof tiles  

 

that sit still soaked by water poured  

out by God’s carpeted ceiling,  

while coughs crowd grocery store aisles  

 

and packed Amazon warehouses,  

speaking the same scream  

for mercy from a different strain.   

 

It’s days like this that make me ponder about how  

a young Sir Isaac Newton, in the midst  

of the Second Great Bubonic Plague, 

 

spent his days locked away likely as I have,  

stowed quietly away like a porcelain doll  

behind latched doors to collect cobwebs,  

 

jotting down whatever thoughts came to his mind, 

every now and then his eyes occasionally gazing  

upward at an untouchable outside world 

 

waiting for the end only to be greeted by a beginning   




Fred Waage: 'Dreaming'; 'The Elder'


Fred Waage is Professor Emeritus at ETSU, and founding editor of Now & Then, an ancestor of Appalachian Places. He taught at ETSU since 1978, with special interest in creative writing and environmental literature. He’s the author of scholarly books and articles, and “creative” works including Sinking Creek Journal: An Appalachian Book of Days, and most recently November (poetry). 




Dreaming 

 

Most every night when I am flushed with heat, 

Tossing, sculpturing my pillow fruitlessly, 

The border collies round our bed astir, 

And windchimes restless, pricking peace away, 

 

When finally dreamtime forces itself in, 

I find no solace, no fresh new Edenic 

Garden of illusion, nor clear still ponds 

To mirror your sweet body clasping mine. 

 

No, always I am lost in labyrinthine 

Cities, searching for a station, packing 

Too late for a flight, my destination ever 

One street over, or my ticket lost. 

 

So, when I unarrived, awake, I ask myself: 

Was I en route to visit you, Sweet Death? 




The Elder 

 

Bent almost double, 

she was guided by 

her grandson; her cane 

confirmed the sphynx’s  

riddle, we all watched 

covertly, using 

her image to feel 

young still, but when she 

was seated, looking 

up, we could discern 

within her face that 

other magic face,  

that young girl’s face, 

living still 




Larry D. Thacker: 'Collection'; 'You can reach for a hammer'; 'That Moment'; 'Casting'


Larry D. Thacker’s poetry and fiction can be found in over 200 publications. His books include four full poetry collections, two chapbooks, as well as the folk history, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. His two collections of short fiction include Working it Off in Labor County and Labor Days, Labor Nights, as well as a co-authored short story collection, Everyday, Monsters. His MFA in poetry and fiction is from West Virginia Wesleyan College. 




Collection    

 

We horde. Gather unto ourselves  

things our minds declare can surely fashion 

the finest nests of comfort. Prickly. Jagged.  

Or soft as thoughts of our first suckle at the breast.  

Whatever we pull in, hug around as barricade 

cannot hurt as badly as the evil world. 

Or what might hide within.   

 

We horde. Stuff it all in boxes, stacked,  

unmarked. Unpack and repack. Cram it  

in bags and bags, piled in collapsing pyramids.  

Stare it down over time. Or how long forgotten?  

Folded, leaning in corners. Undusted.  

Packed in plastic. A thing wrapped, held  

to a failing heart through dark crowding like quilts  

sewn up of six-year-old junk mailings,  

birthday cards, a hundred half-burned candles.  

 

We horde. Afraid. Of? Someone might: 

happen over a part of us down in the archaeology, 

recognize our lost limbs, a smile, a missed queue.  

Who rounds up the pieces, sets right  

the cockeyed drawers overflowing  

with mismatched socks and scarves, little Bibles,  

purses, the bags of Christmas bows?  

 

We horde. In case we forget.  

The little stacks of journals, calendars full  

of familiar marginalia. Budgeting. Scripture.  

Dates. Practiced scribble across page after page  

while talking on the phone with family.  

Passwords: back into what?  

Back to where?  

 

Remainders. What to drag out by the hair  

of its head, skin of its teeth, by the britches,  

away from rooms, hallways, out the backdoor, 

across the backyard to the glowing burn barrel. 

 

Over and over.  

 

Have we held down enough fire to do our duty?  

To set final flame to the heavy, airless weight  

pressed into the container. Is there a place,  

back in the house, where all the air is freed up  

now, were collections of motel and campaign  

matchbooks are hidden, where a box of Zippos  

with a dab of remaining fluid might be found?  

Anything with a little hot light left.  

To strike. A spark for the fire. For making  

new ash. Not to keep, but to loose  

like hordes released from sleep.  




You can reach for a hammer  

 

all your life, use the implement   

for its mundane, intended purpose,  

but there will come a time, hopefully, 

when a hesitancy works its way 

into those laboring movements.  

 

Who’s to say when a young man 

reaches that threshold, when he one day 

picks up a tool — a hammer or ax,  

a plain knife, a garden spade —  

and suddenly knows, or, at least,  

senses the long history of a thing,  

the essence of an instrument’s presence   

over the years, the storied generations.  

 

That’s the sudden new attentiveness,  

a moment of consideration before  

going on and driving a nail, or taking  

a limb off a tree, or cutting a twine bale.  

 

The gift of wondering. Asking.  

Realizing you’re part of the question.  




That Moment       

 

I remember my father slipping out of the house  

early Sunday mornings, walking down to the church  

long before Sunday School and regular services,   

to start up a stack of albums on a player in a tiny closet.  

These were church organ albums, songs of chimes  

and bells, choirs, pumped up through loudspeakers  

mounted on top of the church building and heard  

across the east side of town. As the rest of us  

were home, a block away, getting ready, the music 

sounded like it played in the air over the house  

in an echoing, almost ghostly manner, like angels 

I sometimes thought. There was comfort in knowing  

what my father was doing at that very moment  

as his hands filed through the old albums,  

set the playing arm, double checked the player,  

turned off the closet light with the little bulb chain,  

closed the door and made his way out of the building,  

locking the church behind himself, before  

walking home to us to the sound of calling angels.  




Casting      

 

“And tell me, people of Orphalese,

what have you in these houses?  

And what is it you guard with fastened doors?” 

 

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran  

 

What did I expect, casting runes at these crumbled foundations?  

What divining had I hoped for, turning up my medicine bag  

of bone shards, willow branch, and crystal on the dirt where  

I played as a child? What answers linger in this churned, filthy 

bulldozer mud, once my grandfather’s fertile garden, that fed us  

giant tomatoes, corn sweetness, and the greenest peppers?  

Are you tempted to carry off broken strips of magic bark  

from the willow my father grew from a sapling, a tree I watched  

grow from my childhood window? What is under the chunked  

asphalt where they’ve leveled the restaurant, where my mother’s,  

mother’s home stood for sixty years? Old rusted jacks played  

once belonging to my grandmother? Can I take this handful  

of spared creeping phlox to transplant in my yard? Drag my shoes 

along the rust of this basement’s combined heap, the essence  

of my father’s woodwork and aging tools clinging to my heels?  

This canned food label from my mother’s cabinets, is it worth  

keeping? Why inhale the dirt like I might preserve some hint  

of a spell they’ve tried to crush to unrecognizable heaps?  

Because the message is in here still, down in the twisted  

and crashed mess, wanting a voice if it might be translated.   

留言


留言功能已關閉。
bottom of page