Dee is one of my Mountain Sister Poets. We met four years ago at Table Rock Writers Workshop when we both took the poetry workshop with Joseph Bathanti. There were only four of us in the class and the bond we four women formed– and still have – was immediate, and can only be described as familial. It was as if we always knew each other.
Dee regularly travels to Taos, New Mexico, and the Spirit of that place is found in her poetry. She has a connection with the Native Americans and her own Appalachian ancestry that allows for visions of animal totems and a deep pull to the land – whether that land is in the mountains or on the coast. Many of Dee’s poems read like prayers, one senses a gathering of ancients. Others reflect her zeal for life and I wish you could hear the joy in her voice when she reads them.
From Appalachian Picture Book, published by Finishing Line Press, posted with the poet’s permission.
What to see behind the door
dark shadows flow on forest floor.
Cedars bend in winter’s wind
footsteps vanish as they begin.
Snow arrives swirling round
branches move without a sound.
Like ivory keys they wait in place
their music silenced without a trace.
Little child with grandma’s touch
opens the door to see so much
But only a single sagebrush cane
clings to frozen windowpane.
White bear moves as cedars fall
she-wolf sends out a plaintive call
For innocence to come and play
outside on this snow-darkened day.
They step outside, grandma and child
while animals circle slow and wild.
Yellow eyes glint with frozen light
snow blanket muffles sounds and fright.
Winter wind blows cold and free
building drifts so no one can see
Old woman, child, and spirit friends,
have visited and vanished, once again.
The black panther ran between
the shed and chicken coop.
One fluid motion two feet down
and two up moving in one strong
stride, low to the ground.
Things too small to be food
were unaware of her dark form passing
overhead. She moved past so quick
I almost had no idea what I’d just seen.
But the crows knew and fell silent.
Hounds in their pens made no sound.
She took the breath away
from every one of us.
She ran down and then up a ridge.
Somehow she simply disappeared,
leaving only silence waiting
to find air.
“I’m gonna show you how to DRIVE.
How to slam it down through the gears,
taking that Hurst shifter where it wants
to go an’ where you ain’t never been.
Just like when I ran ‘shine for my Uncle.
He filled up that trunk tank and then put
me and two cinder blocks in the front so
the Law couldn’t tell anything was
pushin’ that back end down too low.”
The white Barracuda sat shining.
Just washed, water beads rolling down
the side, sliding over chrome trim,
catching on a port-o-wall before landing
on Level Cross dirt. Home of Gods; a
family dynasty carried on from Lee
to Richard, to insanely beautiful
trophies and lavender fur toilet seats.
The driver’s side door opened.
“Put it in first, then rev it up and pop the clutch.
All at once, do it.” I did. I floored it and laid
rubber all the way through second gear
into third. Holding her sideways into a turn
we slid onto a dirt road. Heaven.
The road dust turned the white car brown
while the intake sucked pure country air into
the turbocharged big block Hemi slamming
it and gas through eight chambered pistons
until that throaty sexy sound poured out
of the most beautiful glass pack mufflers
ever heard in Randolph county.
I was DRIVING. I was braking into turns
like you do when you hold the left brake
on a tractor to spin it round. I spun that
Barracuda into donut after donut and my
uncle had the biggest shit-faced grin
I’d ever seen when he said, “damn girl
you can DRIVE!”
My first poem – the first one I can remember writing was as a freshman in high school – I’d been stuffing my head full of Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Stephen Spender. I still have it and find it passionate but incomprehensible (I’m sure it made sense to my raging teenage brain…)
Who would I lift a shot of darn good bourbon to? Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Lord Byron, and each one of my beloved poet clan.
Dee’s photo by Dea Zullo