Steve Holt, a native of northeastern Kentucky, has three collections of poetry: Late Mowing (2000), Elegy for September (2007), and A Tone Poem of Stones (2008). His poems have appeared in such journals as Cold Mountain Review, Limestone, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Distillery, Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage, Journal of Kentucky Studies, and Blink. He has given readings and led writing workshops in much of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Currently, Steve teaches at both Ohio University Southern and Russell Independent High School.
These orange clay fields on the valley bluffs
Used to yield corn for cattle. Here
They choke in the doldrums
Of rogue growth longstemmed and rustling
All about, unnerving as the past. Dark
As conscience the profound river mumbles
Through a violet bruise of gloaming.
A little hound appears from a path
She has torn through the weeds, wet
Grass rinsing her long ears. She runs low,
Drawn by the magnet earth, immersed
In bloodscent anew, her tail in allegro thrum.
Under a stunted apple tree, bonegnarled
And fruitless, I lean back
And consider the first cold star of evening,
It is to me. Now far off
The dog sounds deep pleasure with the chase.
Powder Mill Blast
Yesterday’s diggings slept piled
By the tram road when first shift filed in
Lifted by laughter, lunch buckets
Heaping with summer. Tame pigeons cooed
From ceiling beam nests on high. And then
The blast, the blast
Shook hardened ground in back yards,
Tarnished the sterling sky. Church bells
Tolled from the shock
As far as White Oak Crossing.
Ruffed grouse, flushed, flew
Down roused fields. Wild rabbits leapt
From powder-burned copses. And the men
Who walked out, if they walked out,
Came smudged in denim bewilder.
Through the broken glass
Startle of windows, company houses wept.
Cue sticks stayed racked in the pool hall,
The ball grounds stood empty all day.
Canning jars went unpacked
In kitchen grief. And death, death
Smelled of sulfur all year.
Down the long street an old man, talking
And shaking, takes a young man
By the hand, shaking
And shaking, not letting go, buying time
To link a swinging bridge
Between them, so he might reel his way
Across weathered boards buckling
Toward his youth.
This is an old man
Who once found the true wealth of the world
In the fine gold teeth of the tasseled corn.
But ah! he has felt too the dying wisps of silk,
Heard as well the crackle of shucks gone to dust.
And he has raked the heaps and lit the pyres
That sting the eyes with memory
And fill the air with the burnt scent of grief.
He thinks, How I would like once more
To see my brother the lightfoot fox, curled
In his red jacket among the wildflowers
At the edge of our field,
Eye sockets ablaze with wildfire. O,
If I could know where his kind has gone . . .