Narya Deckard :: “Thinking About Kentucky and the Wolfpen Poems,” “The River Yearning,” and “Cicadas” ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: Appalachia, just south of the Mason Dixon, That invisible line the weight of a dead mule. Ramps, trillium, and mayapples Showed me where I ended And West Virginia began. Appalachia, a few hundred miles south Of that weighty border, yet the flora so familiar In this heat of dogwoods whose delicate silhouettes make me feel like I’m in a Japanese painting: Ramps, trillium, and mayapples. Watch us unfurl from our mountain-shadowed homes Still limp with stale cold.


“Thinking About Kentucky and the Wolfpen Poems”

“Without outside support, ‘this would be unsurvivable,’” – The New York Times

Rain scattered on shingle roofs, it clinked
On metal, slow at first, slow as a draft horse
Straining to skid an oak up the mountain.
Then the pattering grew, knotting in petrichor
Mists which gathered into fists and pummeled
The rivers and ground like broken branches.

After the rain fell and filled the North Fork,
After the waters, brown and muddied, surged
Beyond her banks, no longer flowing and deliberate,
But a wild rising, the rain fell more
And filled the dry land.

The river re-ordered with chaos,
Not content to flatten the flowers on sandy banks,
But sought with hoof-thundering rage
The streets and farms, the carefully mortared bricks,
The homes, the graves.
And floods rushed down from the stripped and mined hills
To meet the North Fork waters where it filled
Shoes lined at doors with the mud prints
Of deer and fox. It buried the living
And unsettled the dead.
The child in the hills now silenced.

A Kentucky poet once wrote that he would not leave
These confining hills, though he watched waters rise
As trees uprooted and the land leveled, though the sun
Scorched and blistered the earth beneath him.
For he cannot leave behind
What he is.

What is unsurvivable?

An apple tree stands rooted,
At once submerged,
Its stricken leaves now
Muddied but held fast.
And on its many branches
Cling ripening apples.


The River Yearning
RIP Ivan 11 June 2021

I remember the sun at home.
I remember lying by the muddy river,
Faulkner’s words bound in red
Spread before me like an ache.
The tall grass cast thin, short shadows
On those inked pages
Beneath the high-risen sun. Your pink tongue
Lolled, your panting breath a punctuation
To the river’s roar over deep rocks.
Her body cupped in a coffin,

Her rot a cloud around them, mine glistened
With sweat as earth languished, as devastated
Mountains heaved black bones
Toward the bleached sky. Their wagon
Creaked as they struggled to ford
The river, his mare’s hooves
Sucking out of mud, she wallowing,
Her eyes rolling whitely,
The stench of death her stalker. Two men

Who held the scent of fish shuffled behind me,
We all circled by spread-winged vultures.
The wagon wheels bitter over stones. A train whistled
And your black ears flicked back and forth
Like river grass bending in the wind.

The mules’ legs stiffened, stiff,
Their bodies now two mined mountains
Floating downstream.
The River Yearning runs
My heart empty.



For seventeen years we eat
Tree sap and build tunnels

As we wait to hatch.
Then we stretch our wings,

Green with the memory
Of our ancestors.

We sing a soporific song of rasp and rattle.
It swims in the heat

That crooned us forth,
Our song a summer tapestry

Of damped desolation.
At seventeen years’ end,

We no longer count.
We keep time only by the rise

And fall of our call.
We sing a song of evanescence,

Of beginning’s end.
A rain scented summons to ruin.

We suddenly appear overnight.
We know it must be so.

We crawl from the earth like mushrooms,
Those vegetal zombies.