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 is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards. Her work was listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Competition. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. Her first poetry collection, A Radiance was published by Cultured Llama Press in June. Her second collection, Persephone in the Underworld has been accepted by Rufus Books and shall be released in 2016. Her work has appeared in: Anon, Art Times, Ampersand, Blue Tattoo, Sentinel Quarterly, The Delinquent, De/Tached (an anthology released by Parthian), The Writer’s Hub, New Welsh Review, Every Day Poems, And Other Poems, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Magma, Words & Music, The Quarterly Conversation, Tears in the Fence, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Planet. Her work is due to appear in the next issues of Poetry Review Salzburg, Acumen, Pacific Poetry , Music& Literature, Anon, and The Screech Owl.

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

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