Jessica Weyer Bentley: Poem

Southern Legitimacy Statement: As with all volunteer vegetation, I was transferred South as a seedling in the wind as my mother decided to give a southern man a chance the second time around. Though I was a New Yorker’s daughter, I found myself in the hills of Eastern Kentucky at the age of four. I planted my seedling roots, and they grew. I have picked papaws, climbed the hills for Christmas trees, stood in the Kentucky rain and watched Baptisms from the creek bed. I have licked honeysuckle stems, ate cornbread with buttermilk, watched the fog burn from the holler and heard the hum of the coal tipple as it ran all night. I have rubbed elbows with coal miners, moonshiners, and bootleggers; realizing that some of the most amazing people are not in the lines but on the outside margins of the world’s coloring book. I would say my roots are planted strong now in the black rock of coal. I married Southern, bore Southern, talk Southern and my spirit will always ache Southern.


I love living in this place of the forgotten,
down between the mountains as they caress the land,
where the rivers still run clear as crystal,
the coal tipple hums against a florescent night.
A place of light and shadow,
a gloaming of miners,
a place among the pines.
The willows hang in humid heat,
time is black molasses.
The white chapel echoes of Baptismal hymns.
The preacher begs, 
sucking in repentance with a ragged breath,
expelling pardon upon his sinners,
with such longing.