Samantha Cole is an Appalachian Studies major at Berea College who hails from Beattyville, Kentucky. She is a student assistant at Appalachian Heritage magazine and is editor-in-chief of the student literary magazine at Berea, Carillon. This is her debut publication.
". . . And Twelve is Joy on the Morrow"
Our kinds are of prime stock, companions of emperors, raised
from ashes. Cursed by Apollo, once our feathers were clean
but the names now given to us by the people hint
at wickedness; portent, murder, normally known as crow.
But we once carried food for The Dalai Lama. We were packed
home to feed families, some tanned our skins to use on drums.
When, muscles taut across hollow bones, our wings drum
against the air, incessantly, you so easily forget how we rose
from the orient, how we, communal animals, travel in packs.
Instead, weary farmers sigh, curse; get out their guns to clean,
spit on the ground and make ready to kill the damned crow,
to string us up, leave our rotting bodies as hints.
Upon a time, our flesh was savory and sweet, but now it hints
of all your hard labor, of sweat shed in dirt, tastes of the drumming
of your hard working hearts, but still you leave your radio out to crow
at us, think that will chase us away, though our shouts can easily rise
above it. We’ll still wait on fences to pick your stalks and vines clean,
your harvest wrapped tight in our bellies, making it easier to pack.
When our voices cause your skull to pound you could pack
your head in ice, maybe take a pill, or sleep it off. Try a hint
of bourbon, a warm poultice, or peppermint oil to make a clean
break. Plug up your ears, close tight your eyes to stop the drumming
in your temples, that incessant call that pounds itself into the rosy
flesh between your ears, sounds through the day, brain always crowing.
Watch us carefully, for a day will come when these damned crows
will kill your lambs, mark you as bad, speak your language, pack
off your Albanys, wait in the corners of your house, and finally rise
above trees to fly with our raven brethren. Once more avoid any hint
of scorn, a new day for us, a new piece of slate, where we will drum
away that notion of evil, will leave behind everything called “unclean.”
We will return again to the ways of our ancestors after this cleansing,
back to the time when the haunting, pure sound of the singing crow
is again heard everywhere, where children are hidden away, men drummed
out of their fields, leaving their precious land, hanging themselves in packs.
Us regal creatures, kings of loam, our feathers will once again glisten with hints
of silver and gold, our beaks and feet gain back their gentle shade of rose.
Let our crows play in your heads like drums until they pack
themselves flat, the fields and streets now picked clean of any hint
of man, the earth set again as it should be, shining, an indigo rose.
"Old Timer's," She Called It
And on the bridge stretched taut over
the muddy creek bed, we paused,
she and I,
my fingers hard pressed against her knuckles
where I could feel how her skin,
rough from too many days spent trying
to feed mouths not her own,
was drawn tight over frail bones
like the wings of a bat. How, once strong,
her fingers had made for me quilts, kites,
had tucked me in for a safe passage
to the place called dreamland, anointed
my forehead with oil, drew out the sting
left behind by a honeybee
stepped on as I ran to the rose bushes
planted in sweet smelling land.
Another time, how she removed
a sliver of wood from between
my fingernail and its bed.
Below us, orphaned cherry blossoms
floated on the water’s surface.
She dangled her basket over the edge,
but just as she had me, so many years past,
I pulled her hand back, shook my head, no.
Her eyes wide like some small child
who would never truly understand,
she cursed me under her breath.
So I took her hand again, and led her back
up the hill to her house
where we shared her last meal.