Updated: Jan 20
by Pauletta Hansel
I’ve seen beauty in Harlan / in the trailing arbutus… [but] beauty / is a stranger / to the coal camps …
Ground laurel, mayflower, trailing
its pink-tipped blooms
in the month of my father’s birth.
Epigaea repens “upon the earth.”
Arbutus “thee only do I love”
in the language of flowers, and he,
in his way, stayed true
to the ground he grew on.
My father always had to have the mountains in his sight.
No matter the trails of his sorrowing, restless mind,
his feet stayed planted
in mountain dirt.
“Trailing arbutus is very difficult to establish and perpetuate. It will not tolerate disturbance, is extremely susceptible to failure … even in good conditions.”
From him I learned
you could love what you also hate
gaunt-eyed, gulp down, everlasting
grime and dirt
But beauty is never
Pauletta Hansel’s books include Friend, Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award for Appalachian poetry; Heartbreak Tree is forthcoming from Madville Publishing. Her writing was featured in Oxford American, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Pauletta was Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate and past managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. https://paulettahansel.wordpress.com/.
Listen to Pauletta Hansel's SOREN LIT podcast interview: https://anchor.fm/melodie-rodgers/episodes/Pauletta-Hansel--SOREN-LIT-2022-e1d7qev