Three Poems by Angela Jackson-Brown

Love Notes to My Cousin, Appalachia

Old gal, you been talking sweet to me since the start. 

Since you and I started this one, two step, 

where I looked at you and you looked at me 

and we both had stars in our eyes because instantly, 

we knew, we were kin.

When I met you back in ’99, you pulled me 

and my broken pieces into an embrace, 

talking softly with the tongues of my youth. 

My broken pieces were sharp to the touch back then. 

I apologize for any little nicks or cuts they caused you.

I discovered you when Dixie ran me off with her salty ways. 

That gal ran me ragged and I ran towards you. 

Pretty girl with the thick hills and the soft curves. 

I saw them hills and immediately I knew we were kin. 

See, I’m big boned just like you. 

There’s thunder in these here thighs, 

but looking at you, I knew you could relate. 

We both have such unpredictable terrain. 

Like I said, I knew right away you were family ‘cause 

you held on to me so tight, 

like a woman holds on to another sinner woman 

on the last night of tent revival. 

Pain recognizes pain.

Sometimes, your hoots and hollers scare me. 

Reminds me of crows named Jim from my southern past 

but then you do something to remind me that friendship 

resides strong in these hills. I know it is complicated here, cousin. 

I know danger simmers like a piece of dynamite 

waiting to be lit. But here was where I first found my voice, 

mainly because it sounded so much like yours. 

Yes, the sun shines bright over in this old Kentucky Home, 

and yes, there are shadows here too, 

but there are also creek beds, Shasta Daisies, front porches 

weighed down with pitchers of sweet ice tea, cicadas 

doing their mating call in the trees, cast iron pots 

filled with soup beans, hot water cornbread, slow talking boys 

in Wrangler jeans, and banjo pickin’ 

that will cause tears to flow

all familiar

all things that remind me of this home and the other

both filled with family

family just like you, 

my dear, sweet, Cousin Appalachia. 


God: Remembering

I forgot about you.

Maybe that isn’t the best way to say it.

I don’t want you to think you aren’t important 

because you are. I hope there is some way

I can make you feel remembered, 

even in the forgetting.

You were not an afterthought 

or an incidental occurrence.

You just weren’t everything, 

so that made the forgetting easier.

You were a between.

Maybe if you had been a beginning 

or even an end,

then perhaps I would not have 

forgotten you so easily.

But I do notice you.  

When you make a small, familiar movement,

I’ll sometimes stop, look at you, and remember.

But I admit, that is rare.

Yet, on those rare occasions when I do stop, 

I do pay attention, marveling at what 

you have become since last I forgot,

but then inevitably, my mind wanders 

to other creations, and I forget you again.

You ask, “How could you forget me?”

I ask, “How could I not?”

You were merely a ripple 

in the aquatic, metaphysical space I occupy.

Not even a ripple really.

Something much smaller.

But you are powerful.  

You keep bringing me back to remembering.

The memory of you 

washes over me like low tide, leaving 

a cool, oceanic glisten on my godly flesh.  

I smile, but moments later,

I forget you all over again.

Maybe, to ease the forgetting, 

you could look inside yourself,

remember that you are God too, and then,

perhaps my forgetting wouldn’t matter so much.


Back to the Mountaintop

There are days when He feels like a dream. Like one day,
or night, we collectively went to sleep and conjured him up.
Like in our desperation to overcome the debilitating effects of Jim Crow, 
we made ourselves a monument and named it King. We pretended
it had breath, bone, and soul, and we made up inspirational
rhetoric that flowed from its unmovable lips to further lull
us into a deeper sleep. 

We. Over. Come. Promised. Land. Equal. Get. There.
Mountain. Top. With. You. Not. Afraid. I’ve. Seen. Not. Afraid. The.
Coming. Lord. Not. Afraid. Not. Afraid.

Maybe we crafted this sepia-skinned angel-man out of leftover
memory pieces that stowed away in the belly of those 
beasts that swallowed up our ancestors, bringing them to a land 
of barren promises. Maybe this King we coronated from wordless 
freedom papers and promises of kingdoms 
made of up 40 acres of hallucinated land, surrounded by 
mountaintops with no bottoms, was just one endless fall down 
into the pit of no overcome. 

No freedom song. No peace like a river. No freedom song. 
No how I got over. No freedom song. No Steal Away. 
No Go Down Moses. No freedom song. No Kingdom Come. 
No Take My Hand. No Precious Lord. No King. Will come. 
No freedom. No song. No freedom. No song. No…

Maybe we should go back to the Mountaintop 
and look over the edge to see 
if maybe he went down the other side without us.  Maybe 
the Promised Land is waiting, 
acres of land, separated into plots of 40, 
with a now white-haired King, 
waiting for his subjects to come home.

Angela Jackson-Brown is an award-winning writer, poet and playwright. She has published short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry in The Louisville Journal and Appalachian Review, as well as other journals and anthologies. Angela is the author of Drinking from a Bitter Cup, House Repairs, When Stars Rain Down, The Light Always Breaks, and most recently, Homeward. When Stars Rain Down received a starred review from the Library Journal and glowing reviews from Alabama Public Library, Buzzfeed, Parade Magazine, and Women’s Weekly, among others. It was also named a finalist for the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and was short listed for the 2022 Indiana's Authors Award. Angela is associate professor of creative writing at Indiana University, Bloomington, and a member of the graduate faculty of the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky.