Appalachian Mud by Eleni Karelis

We were sixteen and I’d never ridden
a four wheeler before,
but my tanned fingers curled into your t-shirt
the first time I held you close. 

I remember the rough smell of sweat,
mingling with the cool mud
though I couldn’t see the trail
peeking over your broad shoulders.

So I gazed up through the trees,
and lay my head against your shoulder
while the hum of the engine and the smell 
of your shampoo kept me company.

That night, I scrubbed the hardened dirt
from my fingertips and behind my ears,
but my soapy hands hesitated over my lips,
afraid of scrubbing off pieces of you. 

Hazard, Kentucky native Eleni Karelis is a fourth-year Honors student at the University of Kentucky working towards a degree in English Literature with a minor in Appalachian Studies. Her poem featured here was initially written for her larger Honors Thesis, a chapbook of Appalachian poetry with a specific interest in labor and the intersection of nature and the human body. She will graduate with her bachelor's degree following the completion of her chapbook in May 2023. 

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