ALL SHORT-A APPALACHIA
You want to ratchet this world's fury down?
Then learn to say it right. Not Appa-lay-
you NPR announcers earnestly
enunciating all the accent marks
in Spanish or Sanskrit, you editors
who grant the standard and nonstandard tags
you didn't trash
our water, gash and snatch the mountaintops,
eradicate the chestnut trees, or plan
the factory stacks personally. You
just trample out our vowels.
diaspora slam down their beer cans, stab
their students' final drafts, and smash the half-
carved radishes before they've had a chance
to bloom as radish roses?
as often as the quack newscasters drag
their "Appa-lay-cha" out.
not like quaint
short a: acid, ash, scab, smack,
catastrophe, Cassandra, slag, last, wrath.
LIVING WITH THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC DEBT
"Look, here is water!" Acts 8:36
Not far down the river from Wheeling,
got started, and left. The local
template of leaving's hers:
a crowned and sashed Patsy Ramsey,
mother of JonBenét,
who weeps, queened and sprung, on the diner's
wall of fame. We wait, pay,
drive home by the dark Ohio,
river in negative,
marked mainly by an absence,
though this is where we live.
We'll never be Miss West Virginia,
raptured in Final Net.
We came here like the Federal
Bureau of Public Debt
which left DC with its river
reflecting the cherry blooms,
arched marble, sleek baby-joggers.
Over this river looms
the fire on top of the smokestacks
leaching Lord Christ knows what
all over the floodplain's stripclubs,
eating each rusty strut
that holds up the bridge, the highway—
so we all oxidate.
Behind us, the marble's melting.
Under us, pavement ate
the Mound Builders' ziggurats, meant,
like Public Debt, to link
the people with what they were missing.
Always, on the brink
of this river, the oil has pooled. It
blurred Aaron Burr when his
face fell on it. Now it coats
carport roofs, mattresses.
And as for the missing people—
we come here two by two
to find them. We're on commission.
Any river will do
for holy, however poisoned,
if breath moves on it. Choir
of broken things, keep on singing
"Look, here is water and fire."
on "All Short-A Appalachia":
See Tony Harrison's School of Eloquence or Selected Poems
on "Living with the Bureau of Public
Parkersburg: Aaron Burr slept on an island here while trying to start
his empire in the Southwest. It's James Wright turf, but I was under the
influence of John Constable's Southwark Mysteries.