Jay McCoy

A Sylvan Sonnet 

[Tug Valley / 1860 – 1911]

Red Oak, Pin Oak, Basswood, Hackberry, Beech,
Hickory, Hornbeam, Magnolia, Madder.
Whip-Poor-Will, Barn Swallow, Eastern Phoebe.
Bald Cypress, Elm, Sumac, Juniper.

Hop Tree, Chestnut Oak, Yellow Birch, Red Spruce.
Pine Sisken, Killdeer, Orchard Oriole.
Red Maple, Sycamore, Prickly Ash, Rue,
Sugar Maple, Storax, Sopadilla.

Kudzu, Silvergrass, Knotweed, Musk Thistle.
Silverbell, Scrub Pine, Black Locust, Hemlock,
Trumpet Creeper, Willow, Honeysuckle.
Turkey Vulture, Indigo Bunting, Crow.

Cottonwood, Laurel, Tuliptree, White Pine.
Winged Euonymus, Tree of Heaven.


Recollections: Alifair McCoy  

[Blackberry Fork, Kentucky / 1 January 1888]

The fire –

like men
at dinner

after a
hard day

poling a scow
or cutting

at camp –

every pound

of flour
& every ounce

of milk
we pour

its ravenous


blinding white
sheets wrap

my face
as I open

the door
to try

to make
the well

to draw

to douse
the flames.

Low rumble
now cackles,

pops. Only
a few more

steps. Snow-
flakes settle,

graze my face
like too many

icy fingers

my quivering

I hope




[Tug Valley / 31 January 1888]

Peace has been temporarily declared, but it is feared by the law-abiding people of the two counties that hostilities will be renewed after a great while.

– Colonel W. L. Mahan, Report on Conditions in Logan County

That peace done
broke; the feud

resumes. You never
know how heavily

that silence did
loom. It wasn’t

the War;
these so-called

hostilities have
fermented, simmered,

in every house,
in every room,

for far too long.
If one too many

times, a man’s faith
is tested, his will

tempered, as
an angry boil,

he will fester
& fume. When

Fates loose loyal
children from

a parent’s loving
grasp too soon, all

Heaven & Earth
will be consumed.


A native of Eastern Kentucky, Jay McCoy now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he manages a book shop and teaches writing classes. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from EKU Bluegrass Writers Studio. Jay co-founded the Teen Howl Poetry Series in 2011 as an open mic performance outlet for younger Lexington-area poets. His work has appeared in several journals and anthologies. His chapbook, The Occupation, was published by Accents Publishing in 2015.


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