Appalachian Front

Panther lies next to Wharncliffe
and Wharncliffe next to Devon
and Devon next to Delorme.
In each a single fisherman casts
in the slow, black water of the Big Sandy.
Catfish is the whisker lurking
behind the bobbing cork.
He lives, it seems, in dense night
from day to day until the fisherman
from Wharncliffe pulls him out
to be fried in tin-roof, tarpaper shacks
from there to Matewan.

Politicians call this valley
a depressed area.
But, under the sun, my heart
will not have it so.
Straight up from the brackish water,
up the mountainside, green pointed trees
as close as bird's wings
grow fierce and clean,
and then for miles beside the tracks
the river moves faster over the rocks
and the water isn't black at all--
only the silt underneath.
The water over the rocks
is running clear and cold and pure.

Reprinted by permission of Robin Weeks Pagliasotti. All rights reserved.