Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Susan Sailer: In Welch

I’m trying to reach Superior, pull in

to an old gas station in southern West Virginia.

In the office a man sits on a high stool.


I ask him how to get there & he smiles,

most teeth gone, the remainder black.

Explains he stopped pumping gas


12 years ago–wasn’t but 2 or 3 people

a week drivin in for gas. Nothin to do here

now. People pass through on their way


somewheres else–like you. This was my daddy’s

station. Used to be different, Chrysler Crown

Imperials and Oldsmobile 98s comin in every day.


Clean office, 2006 wall calendar, brass

cash register. The last coal mine closed

in the ’70s, he says, adds that Walmart locked


its doors last January. You see For Sale signs

on buildings, windows boarded up or busted.

He takes out a faded Shell map, opens it, points.


Go down the road two mile, turn left on US 52,

that’s the Coal Heritage Trail. It’ll take you right

to Superior, real close to here. A toddler wanders in,


diaper dragging. Papaw, gimme candy. The man asks,

Where’s yer maw? She done took Sammy to the doc.

He sick. The man messes the child’s blond hair,


hands him two pieces of licorice. This here’s

my grandboy. His daddy–that’s my son–worked

in the mines 10 year–only 30 when the roof


collapsed, busted his back. Out of work since.

Grows pot, sells it for change. You want any?

Takes oxy for the pain. I buy a faded Chapstick.


Copyright 2017 Susan Sailer


2 comments on “Susan Sailer: In Welch

  1. melpacker
    December 7, 2017

    Welch, WV. Such fond and sad memories I have. In the early ’70s, a friend of mine was Pres of a UMWA Local around there. Went down to visit a couple of times. Up a twisty road, park the car and wade across a creek to get to their house if it had just rained, 3 kids, married, working hard. Welch was alive back then, local stores, people who smiled at you on the street. Then in 2012 Joe Sacco and Chris Hedges came out with the book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” giving us verbal and graphic insights to 5 of the war zones of the US. Welch was one of them and was depicted as meth, unemployment, boarded up stores, and general depression in a town without hope. Went down there again about 3 years ago, partly to see for myself, partly to enjoy southern WV state parks. Hedges and Sacco were right. It was a busted town, hope visibly smashed on every street, dreams blown up and in some cases shot up, but dreams unfulfilled nonetheless. This poem says it so much better than I can….sad to say. But we cannot let those who declare war on us destroy our dreams. Dreams are dreamt because there is hope inspiring them. And, as Langston Hughes wrote, “Hold fast to your dreams.”.

    Liked by 1 person

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