Patricia Youngblood: Two West Virginia Poems

Vox Populi

five hundred mountains  

over 500 mountains in Appalachia have been leveled by

mountaintop removal mining, more than 1,000 miles

of streams poisoned and buried in mine waste


the girl at ten felt more than saw how the

mountains commandeered air and space, pressed

horizons onto car windows, thrust massed color

and form into streams or to the very edge

of thin roads between towns, crazy roads

where the young uncles died on motorcycles.


she fell and fell into mountain opulence, as if

there were no coal mines or company towns

harsh and diminished even to her child’s eyes;

understood beyond language how the mountains

defined everything around them, especially

the contradictions.


distant relatives remain, rooted and still in thrall;

the mountains she remembers are magisterial,

numerous as dreams but actual. she has no heart

or vocabulary for the death of mountains,

stumps so defiled that even…

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