I am never happy to see summer go,
earth stripped of its finest voice.
I am sitting outside in my heavy coat,
porch light off. There is no moon,
no ambient distractions, the sky a Zion.
I take solace in considering the age
of this valley, the way water
left its mark on Appalachia,
long before Peabody sunk a shaft,
Chevron augured the shale or ODOT
dynamited roadways through steep rock.
I grew up in a house where canned
fruit cocktail was considered a treat.
My sister and I fought over who got
to eat the fake cherries, standouts in the can,
though tasting exactly like every other
tired piece of fruit floating in the heavy syrup.
But it was store-bought, like city folks
and we were too gullible to understand
the corruption in the concept, our mother’s
home-canned harvests superior in every way.
I cringe when I think of how we shamed her.
So much here depends upon
a green corn stalk, a patched barn roof,
weather, the Lord, community.
We’ve rarely been offered a hand
that didn’t destroy.
Inside the house the lightbulb comes on
when the refrigerator door is opened.
My husband rummages a snack,
plops beside me on the porch to wolf it down,
turns, plants a kiss, leans back in his chair,
says to no one in particular,
A person could spend a lifetime
under a sky such as this.
First published in Aeolian Harp, Volume 7. From Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press). Copyright 2022 Kari Gunter-Seymour.
Kari Gunter-Seymour is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project and the Poet Laureate of Ohio.
This brought back childhood memories and the battles over the red dyed cherries. Love it!
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Alone in the House of My Heart, indeed. Beautiful.
What a wonderful poem, Kari. And we had the same ‘store-bought’ fruit cocktail in a can’ feeling it was much superior to mother’s own. I still crin ge at many things. Thank you for this. The ending is perfect.
And: “We’ve rarely been offered a hand
that didn’t destroy.”
Thanks, Rose Mary!
So very sweet and full, like a ripe summer peach, poem.
Thanks, Sean. It is a sweet end-of-summer poem, isn’t it?
Yes! So very much!