She, the mountain.
She, the woman. Both.
Outside enters each.
Jenny Linds pool hallsfeist dogs draglinemainlined rears twenty-two storeys shovels the over burden pops the mountain top draglinebreaksobliterates the holler
She, the mountain
her skin peeled back
within green mountain thighs
incised high walls in heart meat
pendant above Marsh Fork Elementary
She, the woman
s. aureus invades her
Beaudelaire’s fleurs du mal
intimate IED desquamation
spines of Spruce Valley and Pigeon Roost
her green furred backbones
plateau of peroxided scab
has scabbed and been picked and scabbed
from holler to holler
the miscolored creek
She, the mountain
She the woman
her skin shines
heaves into dimpled necrosis
the meat below
After ravishment the first trees glisten chartreuse.
The redbud opens from maroon casings.
Unearthly purple shivers over
entire hillsides. Flowers
blast the blue red tocsin.
They bloom at the head of the holler
spill from its mouth.
Within the week blossoms
pale and drop, but will never not return
Like that, she is gone.
[Jenny Linds are a kind of house found in rural West Virginia. They are named for the Swedish Nightingale. A dragline is an excavator used in strip-mining “operations.” It is so large it must be built on site and is wired directly into the national electrical grid. Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacteria colloquially known as toxic shock. An IED is an improvised explosive device used in warfare. Redbuds are among the first trees to return after an area has been deforested.]
inside drifts you go back to sleep
your children murmur on
beyond the wall
lying in bed you picture
the waterfall road a sheer drop of white not even a track of your lover not even a trace of your neighbor you your son your daughter rise and eat
while the heater turns off and starts up again
you sift and mix and knead
the dough blisters and is set to swell on the table
you your sonyour daughter
shut the front door
descend the snow-webbed steps
turn up the old logging road
where water has broken through
green moss gleams against white green pine boughs fan and are quieted
a sudden daytime owl flies away
snow turned to path-wide wings
snow sound sifting
white into your mouth
after the bread
under the quilts snow dazzle burns negative your sleeping eye your snow owl ascendscarbon herald
Faith S. Holsaert has published fiction in journals since the 1980s and has begun to also publish poetry. She co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois). She received her MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. After many years in West Virginia, she lives in Durham, NC, with her partner Vicki Smith, with whom she shares seven grandchildren.
Q: If you could create a soundtrack for your poem(s), what would it be?
A: Lizz Wright and the West Virginia hammered dulcimers of Trapezoid (a group no longer in existence).
Q: You mention the redbud in your poem – also called the Judas tree. Tell us more about the spring flowers that bloom in those West Virginia hills.
A: I had never seen redbuds until my first spring in MacDowell County (“the nation’s coal bin” once). I was mesmerized by them. They are the first trees to come back after clear cutting. I also love the forsythia and apple trees which bloom on the abandoned homesteads long after the families have been forced to move away and the houses have collapsed.
Q: What did you collect as a child—rocks, insects, stamps?—and why?
A: Books about horses and horse statues.
Q: Discuss your process as a poet, what sparks a poem and how you work it through to completion (or abandonment.)
A: I am a recent poet, have only worked in poetry for about five years. I began in Durham with Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ workshops through Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind. My first poems, and many later ones, were “after” poems by Lucille Clifton. Often I follow another poet through her language or structure. I worked on a book-length project Firebird, which grew out of my experience of mothering. “Snow Day” was one of those poems. Once I got started, I was driven for about a year and just flew into them. The second year, I worked with a mentor, Diane Gilliam (author of Kettle Bottom), and learned many things I didn’t know about imagery and the construction of poems.