My mother names the black
birds resurrection, throws my father’s hooked
worms and minnows into the sward to gather crowns, dim plume
wreaths against blue, her prayer for charred waters
to part, to clear. Her prayer for the black bone
and our backs against hard wet stone connecting the puzzle
of sun through pregnant pine, cool spit lifting, dampening.
Flood churning, pressing our slight bodies
closer, closer, then up until we are feet deep and rising
from thick slurry like we’ve been caught, coal sludge twirling
rivulets of our hair, palms turned to surrender
as if we’re at Pentecostal church, as if we’ve been bit, seen a ghost.
Dark clouds gather at our knees. We hear the call,
father is home from work.
Maryelizabeth Pope was the fourth generation to be raised in the same coal camp as her ancestors in Harlan, Kentucky. Her poems are forthcoming in The Fourth River and One Trick Pony Review and appear in New Madrid, Dipping (Finishing Line Press, 2009), Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Ozone Park, and elsewhere. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Oz, a Master Electrician and former U.S. Marine, and their daughters Lydia and Kaya.