ROOTS RUN DEEP ‘ROUND HERE
That feller’ was born country,
To the tune of a bellerin’ rooster,
And the howl o’ hounds on the run.
He was raised in a holler so deep,
That they didn’t see the sun ‘til noon.
Wild as the woods,
And seldom indoors,
He was roamin’ the ridges,
Or turnin’ the soil,
O’ six generations long gone.
Choppin’ wood and fetchin’ water,
Buthcherin’ hogs and cuttin’ fodder,
Tendin’, mendin’, fendin’,
Fer his family beloved.
Puttin’ game on the table.
Findin’ the best fishin’ holes.
Did all that he was able.
Survival the only goal.
Just scratchin’ out a livin’ on the Appalachian slopes.
Five years o’ school.
That’s all they could spare.
The farm laid claim to him.
No choice but to be there.
Follerin’ a script already writ.
He grew up quick,
And he grew up strong,
Like the oak and locust,
That sheltered his home.
Totin’ the world on his young shoulders.
Manned a plow long ‘fore most men.
Handles over his head, and a mule’s rear fillin’ his eyes.
Turnin’ furrows like his dad, though way shy of ten.
A sunup to sundown life.
Soon makin’ cash money, plowin’ fer others by day,
Then his own fields by night,
A kerosene lantern, on the yoke swayed,
‘Luminatin’ his future bright.
It haunted his dreams.
An end to the steep fields, ruts, and ravines.
Not settlin’ fer second best.
At the foot o’ his mountain, like a tabletop spread,
It stretched out fer miles.
Took his breath.
Filled his head.
A man of gumption, loads o’ git up and go.
The day would come when he’d own that land,
Nice house, good-layin’ orchard,
Paid fer by his own hand.
And when folks came buyin’ apples,
He’d point east, leagues passed his farm.
“See that tallest mountain pardner?”
“That’s where I was borned.”
‘I’m going to kill myself.’
phone call from a tormented friend
silence, on both ends
hers—resolve, at the accumulated desperation finally said aloud,
with nothing more to say
where could either of us go from there
staring across a gray room at each other,
both painted into our respective corners
‘Don’t do it,’ i wanted to say.
‘You have so much to live for’—a gigantic lie.
words not worth wasting
my mind searching for an appropriate response
my heart knew none existed.
each second adding crushing weight
mentally willing her through the wire,
to recant her proclamation
wishing she could feel my love,
rather than my growing helplessness
my shoulders ached under the burden of her hopelessness,
as images of happier times played in my head
how could endless smiles and laughter come to this
full of life, now done with life, so certain the future would be
an extension of the past and present pain
unwilling to risk it
eliminating the chance by not taking a chance
why did she have to call
it wasn’t some stunt
not a call for help
her intent unmistakable
and still she awaited my response
what was expected, tears and maudlin pleas
reminders of the good old days
the years before the reality of life led to depression
carefree existence before loved ones and relationships withered,
jolting us into stark adulthood
i played the cards dealt
she just wanted to cash in her chips
how long had I been forced to witness her disintegration
and now all my inability to help comes to a head with this phone call, rubbing it in that my love and concern are not enough
not enough to stave off the cancerous anguish, the sleepless nights,
and the incessant self-talk of, ‘Better off dead.’
so easily I could slip into her shoes,
feel the betrayal of a life that didn’t meet expectations,
finding not a second of comfort in anything
twisted, like a once strong wire that finally snaps from the tension
alone in a world without a single handle to hold onto
isolated from life, to the point of feeling already dead—the act a mere formality
no words, in any combination, would alter this outcome
no consoling comments were forthcoming
no shot at being the hero
and like a bucket with all the water suddenly dumped out,
empty and unable to contribute,
‘I’m going to miss you,’ is all I can say.