Appalachia

— Peter Neil Carroll

The man at the river
with watery blue eyes tells me
how to find everything
he’s lost. Scratchy voiced, pointing
a crusty finger
like a needle knitting
through thickets,
he weaves the route:
first to Cousin Jack’s barn
near the yard where the collie sleeps
and across a narrow bridge
by the broken white fence
where Dave’s truck flew off
leaving his Jeannie
and the two baby girls. Turn
at the gray-stone post office.
Can’t miss it. Just opposite
Frank’s busted Ford that needs a motor,
he’s waiting for the government check.
Now if you see the church, fresh-
painted white, you’ve gone too far.
Turn back in Sharon’s drive,
she don’t ever mind, her boys
left these parts years ago.

Stories hang here, ghost-sheets
over the depleted woods. I stop
in a clearing to look at leaves fluttering,
swirling off sycamore, hickory, oak—
the way a child turns back to wave—
the mountain stripped at the ridge.

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