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Saturday, August 20, 2022


by Sarah Mackey Kirby

Eastern Kentucky has long been neglected. After recent floods, locals are relying on each other yet again. —CNN, August 9, 2022

beat loss,
beat wood slat rubble,
beat morning Appalachia.
It’s patch-up and fix-up
and clean-up and move-on
time again. The mountains
know these folks. The ones
in old boats, still combing
flooded neighborhoods
with their own homes in shambles.
Teachers without classrooms and
workers taking charge throughout the night.
Sorting clothes and preparing supply
boxes in shelters. Manning the grills.
Handing out water bottles.
Somehow landing on their feet
as they know to do. The coal mine jobs
lost but the sickness those wrought.
The lack of work to replace them.
The stubborn terrain. Two parties that’ve
fought to be the one who gets to use them.
Same generations of neglect. Different name.
Humble people, caricatured through time,
whose character shows despite their pain.
Nurses care for patients. Art and music bring
the light. The breeze blows through soaring pines.
And when the world tires and the cameras leave
and the mud dries and the current-event poems
become current only for them, they’ll keep asking
their neighbors, “Y’all need somethin’?”
Talking distinct Eastern Kentucky, offering help.
Saying, “Bless your heart” to those who’ve never
once tried to understand. Picking up what’s left of
family pictures and damaged front porch swings.
Together. Always rebuilding.

Sarah Mackey Kirby grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the author of the poetry collection The Taste of Your Music (Impspired, 2021). Her work appears in Chiron Review, Impspired Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, The New Verse News, Ploughshares, Third Wednesday Magazine, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Teaching and a BA in Political Science from the University of Louisville. She and her husband spend their time in Kentucky and Ohio.