Ron Houchin, a retired public school teacher in the Appalachian region of southern Ohio, was raised in Huntington, West Virginia. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Southwest Review, The Southern Poetry Review, The Potomac Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and over two hundred other journals. His fifth book of poetry, Museum Crows, was published by Salmon Publishing of Ireland, 2009. Ron’s awards include the Vesle Fenstermaker Poetry Prize from Indiana University, an Ohio Arts Council Fellowship, Poetry Book of the Year from the Appalachian Writers' Association, and nominations for Paterson and Pushcart Prizes.
In Mythic Times
Somewhere, I believed,
my life had once been better than at this school.
Somewhere no one noticed what kind of word
I ended my sentences with.
It only mattered that I began.
Walking down the halls, I suspected
others of knowing what I’d been through.
That some clipped their hair like mine
was no accident. That I’d stood on a high balcony
in a black uniform trimmed
in ermine, and that crowds had known
my name and named their first born
after me. And everyone believed I’d
found Nibelung treasures or Melungeon bones,
reburying them for better days.
How I’d step out, someday, ragged
and bloody, in everyone’s behalf from
the mountainside with the great fleece
and goat’s horn. Old mothers and maiden aunts,
even witches curled in their bowers,
forgetting the first syllable
they’d heard of magic, remembered my name
whispered over them as infants
lest they come, like so many others
from our school, to nothing.
When I was too young
to be human,
in the mouth
of my Sunday school suit,
of the family,
the tongue of my skin.
I’d peel everything off,
naked as a royal,
and scurry to my palace
and multi-flora towers.
I had expelled the king
snake to get in.
The breeze counted
its fingers on the teeth
of leaves as I
green ways of hiding.
They bob out here reminding
each other that none of them
knows what they are, the little boats
that glow in land fog rolling down
from hills— very rare. Late
river tide rises, opening air
in vapor. This is not nature alone,
but the Corps of Engineers. Barges
bang each other barking
like rust-colored dogs in the city
pound. Upriver, the lock-and-dam
sifts every bicycle part,
bit of Styrofoam cooler,
barbecue grill, and aluminum foil
that tangle and grind
in its baleen teeth—
the moon cannot look away.