Three Poems by Annie Woodford

I Must Be Born Again

a love poem for the Brier

I want to walk up into your land by taking the creek,
       slogging, stream-wise, into your acreage,
since I can’t get there no other way.

       Skirts hitched around my knees,
a pair of water-logged sneakers
       making me sure-footed on slick rocks,

I’ll go in through sycamores,
       the roadbed of what I won’t get.
I’ll never be a speckled trout, crawdad,

       coyote lapping stars in dark water.
But I hear the bent note of your vowels
       from somewhere cedars sleep,

the only way there through stone
       and stream, the bank overhung
by rhododendrons so thick

       everything is shadow, moss, & water-song.
And you wouldn’t know the creek was here
       unless you knew the creek was here

or could follow, underneath the wind
       shifting the trees & your own loud steps
in leaves, a pouring sound.

Those Factories had Heart-Pine Floors

When I think of all the wood and people we’ve wasted, 
the piles of fire-bent metal stacked almost as high as the buildings that burned, 
I want to make these words into a handmade knife, 
tapped together in a backyard shed in Bassett or Fieldale. 

Or a skirt sewn without a store-bought pattern, 
lined with a scrap of golden polyester my grandmother would have prized. 

Or a bird dog with a mouth so soft no training quail ever died. 

The loom and the finishing room held us in their spell.  
The lathe turned and turned, but we didn’t listen. 
We took all the overtime we could get. 

Demijohn: Bent Mountain

We got stoned in the soft 
fronds of a species of tree 
we slowly      realized is not native 
to these mountains—dawn 
redwoods part of the last 
landowner’s      court-ordered remediation 
for scraping the creek banks clean. 
Still young enough    
                their survival 
is uncertain, if they do live, 
just one will fill up this bend, 
a cathedral of needles falling, 
come cold weather. 
In the interlocking pattern 
of the woods,      the last hemlocks 
            the fine white web
of the insect killing them
only heightening their evergreen glaze.
deep in the Appalachians, 
perhaps not far from this gorge 
where a pipeline will cross 
Bottom Creek at least      eighty times, 
some folks say a few chestnut trees 
resistant to blight and hidden 
from all but the few who    knew 
how to find them,             time in trees 
stretching wide as turkey vulture wings.  
People used to pose on the fallen 
tombs of their trunks. 
                                          A plank 
of wormy chestnut can cost 
over a thousand dollars these days. 
On a map for the proposed pipeline 
route, there is a Blast Zone,        an Evacuation 
Zone, a geologic explanation for           Karst 
               which means everything 
seeps through these mountains, 
                                         the water 
in Bottom Creek so cold    your    heart
seems to stop every time
you get wet, 
                 the salamanders 
nymph-quick in late spring, 
despite sediment slicking the rocks,
while underwater,        the orange flowers
of crawdads bloom in the dark. 
Under the water              water 
flows,                         an aquifer wider 
than the Great Road. 
The folks who know       know 
to watch out for rattlers when 
they reach into rhododendrons, 
or step,           from one cool stone to another. 

Annie Woodford’s writing has appeared in The Southern Review, The Rumpus, The Sewanee Review, and Journal of Appalachian Studies, among others. A winner of the Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, she has also been awarded scholarships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences. Her first book of poetry is forthcoming from Groundhog Poetry Press. 

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