OUR FIRST DAYS

Nov 20, 2013 by

“Slave or free”
was bringing disorder, late in the fifties
on the Kentucky border

Grandpa and the rest Was log drivin’ men, A’ridin’ the tide
To the Tug Fork bend

At night on their ark
Came shots from the shore, “They’re a’shootin out our lights but they’ll shoot no more.”
“Quick with the hog rifle, Quick with the blade, Quick, cut ‘em down
Till new widows is made.

Grandpa told his kin
After the fray,
“War clouds, they’s a’brewin, storm’s on the way”
“You better get out boys while the gettin’s still good, Le’s hit’er to the high ground Hide out in the woods”

So up the Kanawhee A’headin’ back east,
by the Elk, by the Gauley, To an unnamed creek.
Nary road nor path
In that forest forever,
“War’s over for us . .. .
If we’re careful . . . and clever.”

Forty years in the wilderness After the war,
Outsiders was few
To darken our door

Old Yew Piney Mountains
They extracted our best, Slowly whispered their secrets, We passed their test

Year after year
More mouths to feed,
Would there be enough summer To raise what we need?
Girdled that timber, Hacked out a plot, Light to the earth To raise us a crop

Hogs in the big timber A’rootin’ out mast,
A razor back’s dangerous . . . Better shoot fast.

Diphtheria, small pox,
German measles and more, Seemed Death’s always a’ lurkin’ Close at our door

Times was hard
But life was still good, Neighbor helped neighbor In that dark wood.
Through spruce to the neighbors’ We’d make our way,
Square dance all night
Till the break of day
Everyone took time, Everyone spoke,
Meals was to be shared, We was all broke

Suddenly! The great silence Was no more,
Never be again
Like it was before
Industrial revolution Invaded our land, All had to step
To meet its demand

To forest primeval
Came the hungry beast, On our mountains of green It aimed to feast
Grinding and screeching In its attack,
The virgin was ravaged And nothing put back

Green for green . . . . Can’t slow down . .. . No time to reflect, Mammon’s in town
The rich got richer
But the poor had more, There was work in the woods No wolf at the door

Bohunks and Tallies Kept laying the rails, Woodhicks with horses Kept snakin’ out trails
Money came easier
And times was better,
We had fun at the log camp No matter the weather
People was happy ‘round the boom towns, ‘cause six days a week the trees dropped down

But! Deep humus exposed Became dry as tinder Thousands of years
Were torched by a cinder
Plundered and scorched, Its life blood gone,
Those who took most Have done moved on

The forest forever
Has come to an end
The virgin, now an old hag With nary a friend
Greed promised the world To fulfill our dreams
But our trout’s bellied up In our muddy old streams.

As orphans we live
And continue the search
For the community that nurtured Our first days on earth

Dwight Diller

This poem was written in the third week of January 1989 at 1.30am in the morning. I had been working on the ‘Yew Pine Mountain’ Presentation, and woke in the night with the whole poem. I began writing as fast as I could to try to capture the verses as they came to me. I felt that I did not ‘’write’’ the poem. It was as though it ‘’came to me,’’ and my job was simply to put it down on paper.

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