I kind of miss sleeping outside


I distracted myself, walking
into the wind, by remembering
a story my grandfather told me
about the ancestor brothers
who came over from England
to give us our name.

They were loners,
all three of them,
and though Charleston
was, at that time,
the only real town,
there was too much
Society for one brother.

John Pope split off
from the others,
packed gun and ruck sack,
a good skinning knife,
and headed out West.

He landed in the mountainous
Territory that would eventually
be named Kentucky
and though there was Society
there already waiting for him,
it was more to his taste,

speaking a language
that sprang up from the land.
He refused their help
to build a longhouse,
choosing instead a giant oak.

The trunk was fifteen feet
in diameter; he hollowed it out.
Fire, like death,
was ever our friend.

He lived there for twenty years
before his native bride
finally convinced him
to take up
a more human residence.

There were more
whites there now,
and although they
shunned him, he had
become a racial mediator,

his bilingual children
needed their status.
That is how the world
gets us all, in the end.
It burns up our heartwood.

Musing on this
carried me miles,
across the bleak
Virginia highway
the snow had
made waste.

I imagined that I still
felt my fingers.
Head down in flurries,
I trundled on.

My torn sneakers
swathed over in duct tape,
my jeans wet to the thigh
where my feverish heat
melted the snow.

My toes were a dream
I had once,
my hands balled
in the joined front pocket
of my five-dollar hoodie.

My university was closed
for a week and I had
nowhere to go,
no money to take me.

My backpack was weighed down
with poetry, novels, what food
I could scrounge, a blanket,
matches, my grandfathers
bone-handled knife.

There was an unused
cemetery near by
that I thought likely.
The newest grave
was a hundred years old.

It belonged to a child,
a lamb carved
in sandstone,
a few close dates.

I climbed over
the tottering fence
and landed in powder
that flew up in a spray

that was joyous,
rainbowed in moonlight.
I turned from the road
and found my tree.

It was a yew,
evergreen, decorated
with a few withered berries
that faced me like eyes,
inviting me in.

There was a crack,
a fox-den, waiting for me,
empty. I cleared
out the bracken,
lit my small fire

which held me
the week, heating my soup
and lighting my poetry
as I lay, curled and warm,
in that beating heart,
at home with the dead.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on April 8, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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