West of Blue Ridge

I was born in Carolina
where the mountains addressed Heaven
by its First Name and the rivers
fell and foamed the fish within them
while the trout fed on the mayfly
and the currents cleansed deep pools.

Wagons could not crest the high pass
we walked over, waking groundhogs,
as we crunched to school each winter
morning while the hoarfrost harried
apples from the freezing branches
in the orchard of our neighbor.

We spoke English old when Johnson,
changed it little but defined it
in his dictionary written
a century after we crossed oceans
seeking purchase in Virginia;
pacing, Piedmont hills behind us,

till the mountains rose around us,
lifted up our souls in singing,
taught us solace of the ridges.

Running water turned the wooden
blades I made by splitting cedar
into shingles and affixing
them in forms of fixed gyration
that contrived to take rotation
from the creek and turn our millstone

grinding cornmeal, grinding flour,
while we spun our lives in tales,
mountain backdrops: pirates, whales.

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