The Night the Rain Had Nowhere to Go

Before wanted posters were hung    her name & face    at gas stations
& the Magic Mart      Before she testified    to the House Subcommittee 
on Energy and Mineral Resources    made congressmen look

at her slides     orange creeks    scummy tap water    a nude girl bathing  
in mine waste     Before capitol police    detained    interrogated her
for an hour     Before she told reporters    I’m a hillbilly    a Cherokee

a fierce mother     Before the ridge behind her house     was blasted
& her children got nosebleeds from the dust    had to play inside
Before strangers gave her children the finger     taunted them     Before

coal trucks swerved    tried to run her off the road     Before the sand
in her gas tank    & knifed tires      There was the night the rain came 
moaning down    had nowhere to go       valleys near her house

had been filled with debris     everywhere the soil pressed down
a great grinding flood      Big Branch Creek       took her access bridge  
her sidewalk     She led her son and daughter    out of their house

tried to climb the hill     tried for higher ground    They couldn’t push 
through liquid mud     the hill washing down on them    their feet sunken 
slipping in mud    the earth sliding away

Copyright © 2019 William Woolfitt. This poem originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, Winter & Spring 2019. Used with permission of the author.