West Virginia

In 1927, West Virginia established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Marc Harshman, who was appointed in 2012. Harshman is the author of eleven picture books for children and three poetry chapbooks, including Local Journeys (Finishing Line Press, 2004).

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Elegy for the Shenandoah River

at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 

The rivers meet become one and disappear
At the sea and the young find the solace
Of drugs and fucking. Falling-in-love

Is the story they tell later living a while
Maybe in misery or in joyful fits
Of circumstance dying off eventually

Leaving behind the meanings they made
Which dissolve in the rain over eons:
Houses and books and machines starting

To drizzle back into atoms loose like
Fires in the green bombast of the hillsides
And the town of Harpers Ferry and its

Brick walls full of bullets will go like this
River of forgetfulness where I am swimming
Tonight among the boulders in the cold

Because I am drunk and alone and hoping
To die to drown to be carried suddenly up
Side down blue screaming in the waters

Which has happened enough that death is part
Of what we celebrate here in the National Parks:
A perfect place to lie your body down in the dark.

West Virginia

Fall kingdom conquered first by bedlam,
then bedlam’s hunger—hush—heavy
in the air between the hills that crash
like waves into each other. What is a hive
without its queen? Thirst can rule, so can want.
A crown of needles, a gown of clouds she parts.
Bees in the streets below, their tongues
like hands reaching to the sky for an offering.
This is what want does, this and the raindrops
becoming pills in their throats, spurring wings,
all that fluttering the hum of a false heaven.
And who, through that, can hear a few wings
folding under the weight of death? It is too late.
Like timber, like anthracite, death is a natural resource.
The colony glows. The colony does its work.
 

Something New Under the Sun

It would have to shine. And burn. And be 
a sign of something infinite and turn things 
and people nearby into their wilder selves 
and be dangerous to the ordinary nature of 
signs and glow like a tiny hole in space

to which a god presses his eye and stares. 
Or her eye. Some divine impossible stretch 
of the imagination where you and I are one. 
It would have to be something Martin Buber 
would say and, seeing it, point and rejoice.

It could be the mouth of a Coca-Cola bottle 
or two snakes rolling down a mountain trail. 
It would have to leap up out of the darkness 
of a theater and sing the high silky operatic 
note of someone in love. And run naked

slender fingers through the hair of a stranger, 
or your mother or father, or grandfather, or 
a grassy hill in West Virginia. It would live 
on berries and moss like a deer and roam 
the woods at night like the secret life of

the woods at night and when the sun rises you 
could see it and think it is yours and that 
would be enough and it would come to you 
as these words have come to me--slowly, 
tenderly, tangibly. Shy and meanderingly.