Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hillbilly Heroes: An Elegy

I you we are molded beings.

We are not stamped out
In an assembly line where
Variation is undesirable.
We are as variable as the mood
Of the cave and the wind-swept mountain.

Our molding is a holy holding
Of hands and of lands
Far-off and near, of memories
Heard by other ears
And told to us in stories.

I you we are molded beings.

There is a danger in thinking
That forgets this, or never knew;
Pattern is what we go on
Go on go on go on, but
To go on we have to go outside,

Have to ride a waterfall even if only from below
Where no drop has ever gone before
And follow it from birth to death
From top to bottom in a century
That lasts seconds.

Do you feel the rain?
Did you get the eggs?
Did you sharpen the knife?
Did you slice the bread
And cook the breakfast?

I grew up on a mountain in Tennessee,
(A ridge actually). Abandoned as a child
By housedwellers, I was raised by
Acorns in the fall and dust in the summer,
By snow in the winter and toad lust in the spring.

I had a near-neighbor once-removed by a century,
Emma Bell Miles, an outsider who
Married a mountaineer and went so far
Inside the mountain that she is still there
Long after she died of tuberculosis
In the sanitorium so therapeutically named
"Pine Breeze." But why talk of death
When she is still inside the mountain
In stories and pictures? I am falling
Down the waterfall and reading
Emma Bell Miles and will soon join her in the pool.

Speaking of things Pine, I met Jim Wayne Miller one time
In Pine Mountain, Kentucky, at a "retreat"
(Another therapeutic term that presages death haha).
He spoke. He was quiet and humble. His smile
Was conversation. "The local is universal."
This was before the spring had lost its flowers
And before resurrection became baseball.
Or, as Herr Miller the German translator would say,
"Vor der Auferstehung den Baseball wurde."
What is it they say? "The world is your Easter?"
No, I don't think they say that. I wish they would.

Then there was the Cumberland park where
The housedwellers liberated me from dust to
A rowboat with which to raid basking turtles
And ask, "Who is Myles Horton and why
Highlander Folk School?" And learn why.
Or at least kick up dust and throw acorns
And start to understand that some people will try
To take advantage of you and keep you down
If they can, and how they have done this mightily
In this land is your land, which can be I you we land
If we will just join hands and not let them move us.

Because I you we are molded beings
And death is a bee that got mixed in.

My hillbilly heroes:
Emma Bell Miles of Waldens Ridge, TN (she claimed it).
Jim Wayne Miller of Leicester, NC.
Myles Horton of Savannah, TN.

No comments:

Post a Comment