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Ashland, Kentucky

No teeth. Soft face. One hundred years old and straight-sitting all
day. Riding mower up and over and around (her son). Tenants,
always tenants. Young mother on porch on phone, flaking trailer
smooth skin. Hollers, curves, and turns. Where my grandmother
lived, what she left at 23. Who stays? Virgie stays.

In the Coalton cemetery early death. Yellow wings rise from a
sweetgum. Grandma’s first church stark white and behind it black
raspberries. Eating them in the hot car.

We find a dark rock, maybe coal. We keep moving. The tea is so
sweet I throw it away. Graffiti on the fallen cabin: outlaw Lamor.
Artful wreckage and kept-up houses.

The family name in blue marbles, no headstone. Gingham chairs
by gone beloved now rip and rust. Graves bloom all year with
plastic flowers. Lost babies get a toy each season.

Fast cars and tobacco shops, railroad bridges partitioning sky.
Country dogs chase the car and 1920’s mosaics climb the flour

Walk the trailer park next to the hotel: one garden perfect. Who
doesn’t drink. Who does. Town park a sea of lovely. Lilypads and
spouting water, cabin of founders. Am I from here.

Grandma went to Seed Tick School. This is a specimen of my
writting. I am only six years old.
Her father farmed with his body
only. Gooood naaaaight! Grandma would say.

The wallpaper peels but does not fall, held up by its scrim of coal.
The holler a gentle afterlife, even winter not such harsh wind. This
summer, we touch Mars and the radio plays for Virgie.

One year, forty years, all talk, all speech. Unravel the grass in the
yard this way, shimmy every broken window at its split. Trouble
the old family home and its caving porch, move toward dust-dark
kitchen chairs neatly arranged. Set and rest a while, Virgie says
and makes an arc. We move into her life. I hear nothing.

The cemetery is thick and high. Walk through steep weeds and
unravel the knotted fence chain. See how the dead see, all over the
valley. The living move away, come back for a day or never.
Under tall bugbane, bees snag on clover. Virgie tells me, You
know where I live now.


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