Richard Hague 



What we worked at there:

Breathing, in the early afternoon,
before football practice,
we ate air in vast gulps,
storing it for our needs:
the twenty sprints,
the hill-climbs,
the hundred long-burning
lunges and grapples.

Catching the eyes
of girls: our gold letter sweaters
shouted through mill smoke and
grit, our D.A. haircuts,
our rolled up t-shirt
sleeves, a pack of Camels
or Luckies
square at our shoulders 
like insignia.

Living up to the
rules of fathers and uncles and
The Company:
no mustaches, no
pansy-ass stuff, no
commie sports like soccer, no
girl pole-vaulters, no
nigger music,
no wasting time
reading, Jesus 
son! no


Landscapes, Near The End

The huge gob pile
along Weirton’s Harmon Creek,
a few straggling clumps of broom sage
bearding its blackened sides,

the fresh roadcut for WV Route 2 along the river
blasting away the green hillsides I’d seen
since a kid from Steubenville,

Tarry oil stains on river stones
round as poisoned biscuits
at the foot of Market Street,

New wells 
scabbing the river bottoms 
and bulldozed terraces
where once skylarks 
shot into the air
in song, and tumbled,
against the azure
of the sky,
a-wing, sweet- 

                                                                      Landscapes, Near the End first appeared in Now & Then: The                                                          Appalachian Magazine, Summer 2013. Reprinted here with permission from the author.


Finger: An Elegy In Eights

       Junedale Meat Market, Steubenville, Ohio, 1963

Hours later, we found it in
the hamburger trimmings, nail still
intact, its few thick dark hairs stiff-
standing. Like half-drunk knuckleheads,
we matchboxed it, wrapped that in brown
butcher paper, addressed To Gene
with no return. I pushed it through
the slot myself.

                          It never got
to him: full lost, for months somewhere
in our bleak, raw, dismembered world,
undelivered, shunted here/there,
it stiffened, stank, and rotted, his
name all over it, his print still
whorled like Braille into its mute blind
end, which pointed down, toward Hell.


Nevertheless, Wonders

One night the sky turned another color than 
choked rustcloud above the mills:
aurora borealis, like a
new stunning woman in town,
her gown pale blue, teal,
green like we’d never 
seen before,
turned heads all

Or the small snake
I brought to light
by lifting a slab of sandstone
less than a block
from my house:
an otherworld beneath my feet.

And the rocks full 
of fossils, shallow seas having
been filled with those 
thumbnail shells
for millions of years,
even before coal, and

Most of all, the casting
of lines into the
midnight river
at the foot
of Logan Street
in the wash of waves ashore
from some downriver tow
of coal or slag
and hours later
the yellow belly of 
a mudcat,
in the chill dawn
than the air,
as it lay, croaking,
in my astonished


In A Time of Great Extinctions

In my sixty-second year,
having made gardens
since I was fourteen,

I planted deep along my street
a post and sign: Erie Gardens,
the act of naming my pledge of permanence.

Now, three harvests have come to my hands
and gone out among neighbors
and customers—compatriots

in the alliances Wendell Berry calls for—
with light, rain, earth, work, and air,
those "Worthies."

If it is given to me to live
here another twenty years,
I hope to do so in sweat and labor

under a calming sun, on a planet
made more healthful by proper use.
Let me not fear that trouble will surround me,

that the clouds I look for with rain
will be the smoke of ruined lands and cities,
that a bitter ash will fall some day

and poison to death all that I have done.



Richard Hague is a survivor of the Appalachian river town of Steubenville, Ohio, recently infamous for its rape scandal and involvement in fracking. His During The Recent Extinctions: New & Selected Poems 1984-2012, was published in late 2012 by Dos Madres Press and won the 2013 Weatherford Award. His essay "Smoked" was a recent winner in the New Southerner Literary Awards. He has work forthcoming in several new anthologies, including one featuring writing from Southern Ohio and another featuring prose and poetry about pool, including his poem "Shooting Nine-Ball at T.R.'s". He was the most recent featured author at the prestigious Emory & Henry Literary Festival (2013). He is semi-retired after 44 years of teaching, and conducts creative writing workshops at Thomas More College in Highland Heights, Kentucky.