Death in West Virginia


The knife passed through the hills
and out fell tears and wires, gears and bones,
out fell coal and trout,
shale and timber,
out fell miles of tangled roads
crumbling under the weight of capital,
out fell sand and water,
ethylene glycol and methamphetamine.
The hills fell apart
and out spilled deserted beauty queens,
once unionized workers, and infirm preachers
of wilting religions.
A black fingernail. A dead end job.
A mountain split in two.
Victims huddled in remote rooms
in places that are dark and local.
Every year the hills lie down
in their caskets
dressed in winter.
The hands will not scrub clean.
The lung will not supply air.
I stand among the slanted tombstones
during a light spring rain
watching the hills turn soft and blue
until there is no strychnine left to swallow,
until there are no rattlesnakes left to hold.