Andi Stout

Ossify

Sure-footed like a mountain
goat eating purple buds 
off sun-ripened milk thistles,
on storm rounded rock, she stands
in block heel gallery boots 
at the cliff’s edge,
where a body is first 
involuntarily obligated to jump 
or fly. Stentor fiddle resting
on her shoulder, 
under her chin—bow drawn, 
this is where I see family 
resemblance—poised, back 
to the camera she’s set up herself,
left knee relaxed, toes 
angled northwest. 
Although only cousins, 
or perhaps because, 
I see my mother in her—
black and white,
plain as day
with just the memory of color
soaking through, moss tufts 
seeping in between stone pores,
unyielding. A mountain squall 
pushes over the chain, 
tangling her hair. 
 

 

Mine Canary

 

Sitting in a wooden cage hanging

off a nail at the entrance,

like a Davy lantern,

waiting for my miner, it seems

 

only appropriate to stare at my feet—

reddy-orange like Sugar Maple leaves

turning with the chill, toes curling

Poplar branches polished smooth,

not much scale build-up today.

 

What else does one do in this situation?

Some pray, and I hear their songs:

 

                                                      Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God

 

in-the-name-of-the-Father-and-of-the-Son-and-of-the-Holy-Spirit

Our-Father-who-art-in-Heaven-Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God…

 

                                                      …hallowed be thy name

                                                      …hallowed be thy name

 

We will die as our fathers did—in this mine,

or maybe another,

its black mouth endless, consuming

like humming birds at dinner time,

spewing out black rock exchanges

in stuttering streams, pick axes and hammers

chipping, chirping

tinging

pinging

temporary trusses swinging

up as men empty out mountain bellies.

 

Today, or maybe tomorrow

I will smell what none of us can breathe—

carbon monoxide,

methane pocket,

toxic gases collecting in flight sacs.

 

In this situation, what else does one do?

Some pray, and I hear their songs:

 

                                                        Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God

 

in-the-name-of-the-Father-and-of-the-Son-and-of-the-Holy-Spirit

Our-Father-who-art-in-Heaven-Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God…

 

                                                        …hallowed be thy name

                                                        …hallowed be thy name

 

Chests seizing and tightening

like unattended kite string tangled around the leg

or the rasp of sudden cold snaps hanging

in the lungs forecasting winter,

dizziness settling in before sleep—

 

What else does one do in this situation?

I know why some pray, and I hear their songs:

 

                                                          Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God

 

in-the-name-of-the-Father-and-of-the-Son-and-of-the-Holy-Spirit

Our-Father-who-art-in-Heaven-Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God…

 

                                                          …pray for us sinners

                                                          …pray for us sinners

 

I know why some pray,

but I offer no penance,

no pleas for protection. It seems

only appropriate

to stare at my feet—toes curling

Poplar branches polished smooth—

reddy-orange like Sugar Maple leaves

turning with the chill,

not much scale build-up today.

 

The shift whistle howls.

My miner slides a bit of biscuit—

soaked in honey, homemade—

between the bars. I eat.

Then, we dig deeper. 

 

 

River

 

Like tributaries,

                        you curve—

 

            sweeping in (hugging earth, filling gaps

between particles

 

that can’t quite seem to fit)

           

            then,

 

out (taking soil, loosened debris). You call

 

                        me       “beautiful.”

 

And I want

to believe you.

Deep Cracks

 

Like feathers from a down pillow

on a bursting fluff,

clouds hang in the air

above Table Rock on Canaan Mountain.

The last rainfall collects in shallow reservoirs,

pocketing cliff faces,

leaking through clefts, folds, feeding moss

taking root at the core.

Germinating in the dark, defying rules

of growth, it sprouts without soil

to anchor it in place,

spreading without permission—ignoring

borderlines,

territory markers,

because moss has no use

for arbitrary binaries and restrictions.

It doesn’t care

about the rigid stoicism

of Maple trees,

leaves turning

from amber to orange—dying elegantly,

or the impatience of the killdeer

distracting predators from its nest

with a broken wing act,

wildflowers at the mercy of a valley breeze.

Moss permeates

the porous, always growing,

always creeping

just near the edge. Someday,

it will hug the cliff it reaches for

without fear of falling.

Andi Stout is an Appalachian writer from West Virginia. She is the author of Pushcart nominated, Tiny Horses Don’t Get A Choice. Andi’s poems have appeared in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Still: The Journal, The Longleaf Pine, Junoesq, and The Miscreant. She earned her MFA at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Andi is now an Assistant Teaching Professor in English at Penn State University.