This Is My Heart For You

First: Rain on the mountain, marching over the mountain
like straight-down ghosts made real once they pinprick
the surface of the water. A distant thunder
that could be mistaken for the blasting
they are doing over yonder where another
mountain is being hauled out one piece at a time.
            You can see an entire entity passing beneath
            your feet if you pause on the bridge above the tracks.
But here, on this bridge, Troublesome churns underneath
us, brown and foamy. All the other little
creeks have ganged up and poured off the cliffs and hillsides
to their great way out, good old Troublesome
O Troublesome O Troublesome O good old creek.

Turn on the faucet next morning and out comes
the water orange, the color of earth
that gets trapped way way down in the metallic
rocky canals that hide within the clefts
of mountains. O secret secret O holy
holy these places are, little hidden
spaces only known by God. We are a people
used to our water being tainted for don’t we
live in just such a world every determined
day of our lives when our mothers are telling
us we are not like them and our fathers
are yelling and waving pistols and all the world
says no, you are wrong wrong wrong very wrong.
But here, on Troublesome, we are of one mind,
of one family and perhaps the creek
is our mother, maybe the mountain is
our mother. The black gum and sycamores
they comfort us, the red fox who comes out during
the sermon is our kin. Lord Lord Lord
what lurks among the gloaming’s cedars,
watching us as we go about our busyness?
The wise old woodlanders sit back and they are pleased,
amused by our honesty that knows
no bounds here yet is tucked away in a little
box made of leaves when we are in the places
we call our homes but are not, really.
Otherwise we would not love this haunted place so much.

Do Lord O Do Lord O Do remember me
the woman sings and we do we do we remember
remember remember. We are all memory
and remembering. This is my heart for you.
We are holding on with white knuckles and we mourn
for what we have not been able to clutch, we mourn
it and preserve it and make it into poems
and songs and books and jars of pickled corn
we can sit on the window sill to catch the light.
You cannot put back a mountain but you can
carry its stories strapped to your back like medicine
bundles, you can make a tattoo of them
on the underside of your arm. You can sew them
onto the unseen parts of your mouth This is my
hand for you, outstretched, unfolded, unclenched—
everything but uncertain. Read them
the way the wise old-timers read the leaves
and the skies and wooly-worms. Read them and tell me
what you see in our past, in our creek,
on the side of our mountain. There is language
in the kudzu and it is all ours and belongs
to no one else. This is my tongue for you,
whispering our history: words words words.

All week long the rain came and went, as did the stories.
Sometimes all would be as still as the voices
of sleeping birds, the leaves breathing against
the wooden shingles of the chapel, the graves
all wet and mossy. Not many mornings
were the spiders able to build their webs
in the corners of the bridge for the rains washed
them away. But always there were the words
and the songs and a thousand different kinds
of joys and griefs. All the while the people were singing
and the creek was running and the mountains
were breathing their last breaths and the kudzu was growing,
just waiting for the moment when it would overtake
every little bit of it, but the people
there cherished it anyway for it was their symbol,
the kudzu. Kudzu, kudzu, a word they sang
and claimed like their own although it came across the sea,
just like them, just like the vine itself. All
things that take up residence must first travel
and find their own secret places in the waiting world.

Reprinted from This Is My Heart for You (Berea College Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Silas House. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved.