Folk Poems #4-6


                        “If I’s a railroad man, they’ll kill you when he can”
                                        Bascom Lamar Lunsford, “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground”



That other entrance:
a country before

the hands of arms of
elbows     of arms of

hands of
elbows arms of human hands
curl round        of hands

Little stranger,
land / line maintain:
of she and of I o’er
up and down
just sunset

miles of hands of wide of
drink of home



Silver / gold ol’
my father too

My mother ol’ of bloom
her wind’ers,
gem of jasper she it’s shine

Sea crowded in
and dove, mole
and human,
turtle, and lizard and

in spring of blood
of blood fair made

of enter of not of alone
of beyond of beyond
and of other





Down low  /  dew       she’s eat
every dime   laid in peace / payday
in old               in low
shade  dollars        cards and jail


Honey who’ll hear
who’ll send arms

ain’t in horses to hear
England and Spain
rides by           our log
our red rockin’                        oh honey
our sugar         gone

Mama they use living
who’ll use you a-way



July      she cradle
the bird says mountain
ain’t     a little poor
the round bird
eat hay and gold

Me a letter in mail
me a-way         put in write never feed


Now now  honey    oh all
I’ve give every
I’ve done /
wobbles   I as sing song


The fourth day they flies high
further on  the dew in / dew on

/ next game
ain’t no            a-way till






Fear of shoes
where they is spreading

for weeping and shrouds

hour hand man

The long millions         my awl
a world of east &        more

the rain-killed road


I’m going                    where
I’m going

World for land, failing

Long way for sure




Of free hand & home’s}
take one in one
eighteen and no


Is latter the road,
is latter the home’s
trouble would one

Throw away
a bread of doom &

throw away Heaven


Notes: These poems were composed using exclusively words found in nine Appalachian folk/country songs (three songs per each poem). The first uses language of the songs “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground”, “Pretty Saro”, and “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room”; the second uses “Down in the Valley”, “The Coo Coo Bird”, and “Sugar Baby”, and the third uses “No Depression in Heaven”, “Peg and Awl”, and “Spike Driver Blues”.
The poems are an experiment in trying to speak only in the language of the place and culture one is “from”
– for me, as a Kentuckian, I wanted to use the songs I heard both growing up in my family and in my own exploration in folk music, and see what kind of “dictionary” they’d give me. They are fragmented because of my own reception of them– not having lived in Kentucky for most of my life, my experience of the culture is second-hand at best. They are also fragments because of the general idea of the folk process/oral tradition– things get lost/moved around over time and place. But we still keep trying to speak in the old ways…

      by Audrey Zee Whitesides