Three Poems by Lucien Darjeun Meadows

Writing Appalachia

Light is just a promise at the end 
Of winter. The last day of winter unspools 

Into the strands of electric light now 
Strapped to my head, barbed and white-hot

As I shake against the strong hands 
Holding me down, down, forcing me out

Of my childhood, out of the well I
Tried to die in, out of the home now burnt 

Like the bones of our kittens by the back door, 
Out of my father stepping into his truck 

As I come up running from the field, cutting 
My feet on gravel as he drives away 

To the mines and out of my mouth a slurry
Thick with a grit no one but me can see—

Like Son

Brown eyes that leak the wings of crows,
There was a boy in your father's stride

That he once thought was you, that he said
You will never become. Soft hands, watch him run. 

So open the front door with those hands 
Blackened by summers rubbing his coal 

Over your body, hands that knows a boy feels 
Like a nectarine, skin a sheer line between hush 

And never was. Up from the treeline, a wind
Rushes featherthick, a fist. Your shoulderblades 

Harden—step out and run. When you forget 
You have feet, you will be free.



West Virginia, June 2006


Two thousand miles from home and I am learning to love
This river running through town, rising for the last eight weeks
Thick with snowmelt from birth in the Rockies at 11,000 feet,
Learning to love the Northern Flickers and how they race
Back and forth over the river while I sit on the bank at lunch,
Flash of red underwing like the coal fires of home in West Virginia,

A holler of green rivers and blue hills pebbled with trees 
Up to the summit, not like the sharp divide at treeline, here. 


This year, this Colorado river higher than usual, and every day 
More trail flooded, and I remember floodwatch in the holler
Back home, the plan on a yellow sign by our one stoplight,
Climb To Safety. And we did. But just this past week, 
As the river here began receding, I get a text from Father—

I know you got no TV but WV is flooding real bad & we’re okay
But no one can get ahold of family down Kanawha so pray.


I am eight years old, when we had to climb and hope
Our cats and goats and little house would survive,
When rivers ran down us, around us, and grass to mud
Under our feet, but we made it to the top, And Father
Played rock-paper-scissors with me until I fell asleep.

No word yet, I really shouldn’t leave the house because dirt roads
Aren’t too good in a flood. You know. So keep on praying.


I was eight that flood, and now, so was little Emanual,
Walking in the shallow creek behind the Dairy Queen 
When the flood came and pulled him from his mother.

Just last week, I stood on the bank of this river, bending
Toward the water, thinking, This is the way a world could end. 


They’re okay. But you know how the hollers are. Everyone knows 
someone and lots have lost their houses. Course flood insurance 
too high for most of us. Neighbors talk of moving 
or just selling rights to the frackers to get a new house.

I go to this river. I always go to the river. On my knees, 
I watch the foam, the branches, the grasses underneath. 


There is no way to bend this. This is far from ending.
There is only a way to begin, and to begin, and to begin.

Lucien Darjeun Meadows is a writer of English, German, and Cherokee ancestry born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains. An AWP Intro Journals Project winner, Lucien has received fellowships and awards from the Academy of American Poets, American Alliance of Museums, Colorado Creative Industries, National Association for Interpretation, and University of Denver, where he is working toward his PhD. 

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