Leatha Kendrick is the author of three volumes of poetry, the most recent, Second Opinion (2008). Her poems and essays appear widely in journals and anthologies including What Comes Down to Us – Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets; The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. III: Contemporary Appalachia; The Kentucky Anthology—Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State; and Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. She leads workshops in poetry, life writing, and writing to heal at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky, as well as at workshops and conferences in Kentucky and elsewhere.

When He’s Gone


No more stories of the Stalag
or Coon Range.  No more
hearing him call out,
“What goes on?” No
more sitting in the two black
vinyl chairs  – Naugahyde
duct-taped together – once, they
sat in his father-in-law’s bedroom,
state of the art in 1970.  I don’t want
to fix things.  I don’t want to clean
the kitchen or mop the floor
that’s crumbled up for decades now,
gray as the shaly side
of a old cut-through.  I don’t even
want to make him better.  He knows
where he’s headed.  I only want
to imagine him a sleepy boy,
riding home in the surrey
from the neighbors’ those Saturday
nights of listening to WSM,
the Grand Old Opry, and after,
his daddy picking tunes on his guitar
with friends. I want to see the stars
wheeling past the creaking roof and feel
the rough edge of the blanket
as it scrapes against his cheek.






Fall Beans
                 for Leslie
                            after Marianne Moore

stayed hot
into October that year, fall
beans hung heavy on the tall
trellises of browning corn.

picked fat
pods, stripped strings.  The thump of harvest–
beans dropped into newsprint nests
in their ample laps.  Sundays

we went
to Mae’s and ate fried chicken, creamed corn,
pots of fall beans, that morning’s
coffee, strong enough to talk.

was wide
with child.  Heavy as any pod
and certain that the babe would
never come. Long walks, bumpy

Will drove,
joking that he’d shake that baby
out – nothing worked.  I say we

we spoke
of birth then with a mix of fear
and bravado.  We’d sat near

who seemed
calm about it all.  Our childbirth
teacher.  I practiced every night.  Birth

went past,
no pains – contractions—only
endless practice, til Granny’s

said she
wanted to be Granny) beans and
chicken (I was piggish!) sent
me into labor – at last! –

same night.
Summer’s heat had held, had swelled late
late beans and me to a state
of turgid stasis.  Those fall

I cleaned
plate after plate of, spelled the end
of summer and my swollen
self.  With Leslie’s birth the heat

Fall took
hold.  Rain brought the corn to earth,
brought to my arms the girl who’d stirred
us into family, garden-fed.








These are the days when crowns of ash
and maple burn above drained chlorophyll. 
Locked in the shortened diurnal,
their blaze claims loss and change,
summer’s wage, due and payable.

Things stop, for a while at least,
at earth. The fruits of light
amble, ripened,
toward the barn,
the grave.









In the long dusk, leave the smells of supper.  Hang the damp dishcloth
across the darkened lip of the sink and walk out to the high yard, the steel
lawn chairs in their thick, faded paint.  Sit.  Let the day seep through you,

the light slide through your bones as the sun slips bit by bit out of the air.
Let your weight dip and lift against the stiff spring.  Begin to rock the lawn
chair, your length a pendulum.  Let the heat that rises from earth meet the upper

cool as it falls from the black beyond day’s blue.  Feel the play of wind free
your hair, the pull of sweat leaving your arm.  Unfold the paper.  If there is water-
melon, sink the long knife you’ve brought deep into its heart.  Breathe its mist,

the melon scent wet against your cheek.  Break the sealed fruit, its thin pink
juice flooding the grass.  Pass slices among children, quiet now between your
chairs.  Let crisp mouthfuls leak their sticky liquid, the meat dissolved as tongue

meets palate.  Contemplate the cottonwood’s disappearing silhouette, the pale
collie’s lifted head, the scent of soiled straw that drifts from the cattle lot.  Allow
your life.





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