Sometimes a lone tree,
barely hanging on
to the edge of a stripped away
is just a plain old lone tree,
not a metaphor
for loneliness or holding out
when you’re the last one
to stand up against
the man with all the cards.
But in this case,
the tree is both, which is
always the case when the top
of a mountain is blown away
for little bit of coal
and all the overburden
is down in the valley now
smothering the creek to death
forever. It’s a reminder
of how strong
a single thing
can be when
it's grown so far into earth
even a machine can’t seem
to shake it lose for fear
of it all tumbling down.
Ghosts come calling. Fill your voice mail,
search you out in want ads, bloat your belly
all night with confusions of 0s and 1s.
Indecipherable guilt leaking into the lines.
The ghosts of wedding rings, imperfect stones
jingled in coffee can rust and waiting
for pawn shop estimates that always disappoint
clouded with the DNA of west African mines.
Of lost lashes, quiet thinning of hair,
gentle pubic shavings, sideburns glassed
in mason jars, hermetically sealed
and waiting on shelves for viewing.
Every scar you carry, carries you
to those crime scenes, to your cave wall
etchings. Leave us a Rosetta Stone path
of sweet raised ink lines on your aging skin.
Tell the ghosts of your family tree, turned crows,
to rush off, to live and come back dead,
live newly black and white on flat branches -
storied pages in the book of your family dead
as you forget their names with each new year.
Come, ghosts of every insincere hug
and handshake, every distracted kiss with
or without tongue, every nameless lay,
every one-sided orgasm or unearned orgasm,
come, join hands with the heartless hymns
you sang only because your mother watched,
not because the Holy Ghost was listening.
Quiet of the Day
The days are usually quiet on this road.
Half the street’s been up all night watching TV,
sipping beers, doing shots, smoking something or other.
They’re sleeping it off now, until one or two in the afternoon.
The other half’s been gone to work since sunrise.
If you get a day off and sit on the porch, like I’m doing, it’s so quiet
all you hear are birds, your own breathing, the coal truck brakes,
the train horns and barking dogs.
It’s never quiet as the sun starts setting.
Someone’s always arguing about something.
An influential attorney lives only a block up the road,
nearly within sight of this mess. But this is a one way road
and they come in from the other direction.
There was a machete attack two doors down last summer.
It sent a boy across the street by helicopter to civilization
to save his life. It cut his arms and hands all to pieces.
There was another machete attack across town not too long ago.
The police station is so close I could yell to it from my porch from here.
A meth lab was busted two doors down two years ago, same
apartments as the machete attach. All the tenants were back
in by that night like nothing happened.
City Hall is a block away and can see this street plain as day.
A lot of things through here make you wonder.
A man got beat down one night, kicked in the head. Was in ICU
for a few days. Got eight-seven stitches in his head.
Never saw him again. It was over pills.
Toward the end of the month things get a little weird. Money gets low
and the stress levels go up. Thefts increase. Arguments increase.
“The Law,” as folks here call it, come around more.
First of the month and everyone’s real happy for some reason.
One house burnt three times before the city finally tore it down.
An alcoholic lived in the one unburnt room for a year until the last fire
ruined the whole place. He’d piss off the half-burnt front porch
and scream in the night. Cut on himself when he’d get the DTs.
There are $300,000 properties a block up the street. Out of sight, out of mind.
Lots of traffic around one place sometimes. Cars pulling up
for five minutes then gone. Quiet little conversations. After
about two days that’ll stop.
Furniture and bug-ridden mattresses magically fall from the sky
and sit in piles blocking the sidewalks for a week until the city
finally comes to pick up what’s not been picked through already.
The fire department is less than a block away, but eight houses
have burnt within a three block area in ten years.
The days are usually quiet on this road.
Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found or is forthcoming in over fifty journals and magazines including The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Mannequin Haus, Ghost City Press, Jazz Cigarette, and Appalachian Heritage.His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, and the poetry books, Voice Hunting, Memory Train and the forthcoming, Drifting in Awe. Check out www.LarryDThacker.com.