National Poetry Month – Sue Weaver Dunlap

Sue is another of my Mountain Sister Poets, met at Table Rock Writers’ Workshop four years ago. From that one week in the mountains studying with Joseph Bathanti, we four women bonded as family. We look forward to our annual poets’ retreat and return home with at least eight new poems, inspired by our time together. I listen to Sue talk and read her poetry, and I feel the mountains rise around me.

Sue is a proud, regional writer, her voice truly Appalachian. In her poems one hears the hollers sing a mountain cadence through the wind, rivers and trees; one feels the spirit of the animals that dart, lumber and hide; is absorbed in family – both living and deceased – who sit on porches, cook in kitchens, work the land. She honors the strength, perseverance and faith of a proud people, and celebrates their joys and hopes.

From The Story Tender, published by Finishing Line Press, posted with the poet’s permission.

A Daughter’s Homecoming

Say it right – Appalachia

Appalachia – at the end

latch the door.

 

But you didn’t, you know,

latch the door tight enough.

Ever so timid,

I have crept into these

mountains,

your birthplace

never your home.

 

I snuggled in,

pulled the covers

over my body.

I breathed faint remains

of long ago smelted copper,

a ritual baptizing

in Tumbling Creek, then

climbed high

on the Big Frog.

 

I can reach forever

backward

forward.

 

You didn’t

latch the door,

Mother.

Now I am

Home.

 

From Knead, published by Main Street Rag Publishing, posted with the poet’s permission.

Grandmother

Down on Tumbling Creek

cool shadowed beneath Little Frog

I chanced upon a well-worn trail

snaking through soft pines sprinkled

with spindly hardwood brush

leading to ancient fence ghosts

circling imagined remains of her home.

 

I tarried a while, caught children playing

amid trailing giggles and spirited shouts

trickling along field stone grief and labor

until I caught the faintest whisper alive

with my name across a hundred years

of sinew and bone, ricocheting.

 

Knead

Age on the calendar, she said, it don’t matter much,

just marks time for folks, not living. Years don’t count

none. People form our days, ease or pain don’t suffer us.

 

Breathe them in, she said, sort of mix them up inside,

see how they settle, glisten like sand on Bush Creek

or churn muddy after hard summer storms up river.

 

Don’t matter any, Mama said, that extra year on our skin.

Lines ebb and flow, lips purse and give. Girl, just hold folks,

knead them into place, and rock, rock as the leaves gather.

 A Daughter’s Homecoming was previously published in Outscape: Writing on Fences and Frontiers, Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VI: Tennessee. Knead previously published in Appalachian Journal.

 

Sue answers my questions ~

I was around 40 when I wrote my first poem about my cousin Flat. My second poem was A Daughter’s Homecoming which has been anthologized many times.

I would love to talk with Jim Wayne Miller about our dear, dear Appalachia.

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