Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blood Meeting

Never knew what blood was until I married
into a family from Viper, Kentucky, separate forks
of Maces Creek merging in Viper, pumping blood enough
into the Kentucky River to ensure plentiful offspring
and slow venom into the veins of stray trespassers.

Viper sits south end of Perry County with
Black Mountain in Harlan County
the only stone holding it back from rolling straight
through Cumberland and right into Virginia. But

you do not have to go to Viper to know its blood or
taste of its venom, but you do have go to understand its whys,
its ways - such as a voodoo doll hanging in the hall,  next to a finely
embroidered "Don't Take No Shit Off No One" sampler,
with a pot of green beans and bacon always on the fire.

Roots run deep for many families, but never as deep
as the blood running throughout these hills, covered in kudzu vine,
coddling babies and mamas, daddies killed in mines or dying
in the still'n of moonshine, tucked away under alabaster
in make shifts coffins feeding the hills with blood and memories.

God has his kind of mercy for these people, knows
his peoples sorrows there, so he blessed Perry County
with the dulcimer, the Ritchie sisters and Amazing Grace
voiced in perfect pitched acapella choirs, trained by time, by
the pain and the promise of  Blue Diamond Coal.  So too, by
lightening and storm pouring through make shift shack's
sending the copperhead migrating and feeding
the springs and blood of family.

As a non-blood you never quit pass acceptance
and taught soon on that voting rights or attendance
to a Blood Meeting is strictly forbidden and enforced.  That
the only thing less excusable then asking entrance is to
bring non-blood children into its folds.  As such evil cracks
the lines and shifts the flow of the creek and sleep
of the viper.  Time being no measure of transformation
whether you sign its name in the presence of preacher
or notary (coal cinders over time weigh heavy on a soul.)

But God in his own amazing grace has a way of knowing
all his people even non-blooded and allows one safe passage
through the hills of Viper and streets of Hazard to face its
apparitions and its visions.  Imprinted gifts that are not meant
for interpretation until well gone and reflected upon....for

beneath the coal and blood of a forked-tongued creek there
is gold.....a precious metal, hand quilted around babes
on a porch,  foggy mountain side gardens, cool water springs
and an eternal muse singing throughout the hills...of its history
and of its beauty; ensuring that God does know all his children, and
that someday He will call them together Blood and Non-Blood
alike, thank them for their sorrow, their strength and their faith,

it just won't be in Perry County, at a Viper, KY Blood Meet'n

copyrighted 2011

Ritchie Sisters - Singing ,  Blue Diamond Mines


  1. oh my goodness! powerful & sparks the mind's ability to create its own image of this wonderful painting... I was all into it... And said a few ooh's & ahh's while I read it too :)

  2. Yes, yes ... So intimate with Blood here, the law of clan which makes a black-haired ex-patriate Irishman or a blue-painted Scots Pict into the a coal-mining Appalachian, one of the exiled clan of the serpent Patrick banished from the bright half of Celtic soul ... great association here of veins of blood and coal, the wandering clan's fierce clamor for roots, the bloodline a meandering, serpentine river. I did a piece once after the coal mine explosion last year, finding in the coal-mining tribe a clan whose lifeblood and curse was that great dark underground, daily going down to chip ingots of black fire from the womb of the earth. Great bit of empathetic narrative here. - Brendan

  3. Thank you Anthony and BlueOran...your comments are Really! appreciated...have want to write on this for a while...I left this family fifteen years ago but the memories of my visit to Viper are as vivid as the now....again thank you...bkm

  4. i grew up in the country, so this speaks of many things, spent time in a coal community in harlan, ky as well...a much different place, so poor, but family...nice write bk