Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Last month at John C. Campbell Folk School I met Ruth Faulkner Grubbs, a Southern Appalachian poet from Knoxville, Tennessee. She is the author of Holy Ground, (sub titled) Where Love Goes, published (spring 2009) by Tennessee Publishing.
To read Holy Ground is to read an authentic story of growing up in the mountains, in Whitley County, Kentucky, “deep in poverty”, “ in a mountaintop cabin”, “... second daughter of a twenty year old mother and a father who made and sold moonshine.” It’s all in the book. Out of the sorrow and the joy, a woman stands tall before us, a woman whose spirit did not wither but thrived.
Black Oak (a place)
She lived there, my mother’s mother,
Mommie to me,
in a board and batten house
standing 100 years on the hill.
There we watched, past the holler,
into the pasture field where jerseys grazed
and left cow piles rich to feed the red soil
around tomatoes and corn
that grew down the steep bank to the well.
We watched into the field where dandelion greens
and crow’s feet and mouse’s ears and dock grew
to fill the black iron pots with salat to eat
with flat cakes of cornpone at supper time.
We watched past the field and the railroad
to Jellico, the Kentucky side,
hanging on a hill between Pine Mountain
and 25 W winding its way to Williamsburg.
Where shanties and the Texaco station soaked in
dust along side the calaboose holding prisoners
to go tomorrow to the country seat for hearing
their fate for moonshinin or breaking in
to steal a way of feedin their young-uns and gettin by.
Back across the bottom fields rich
with river dirt from the lazy creek that would rage
full grown and fast with heavy summer rains
we watched ponderous jaws of steel chew holes
and grab soil and the grass and grains of life
of new beginnings of all the seasons to come.
Strip minin, they called it, black gold.
To fire engines and stoves in factories
to build more things, they said, a different kind of beauty.
They left, and the holes filled with water
and lured young boys, some to swim
and some to drown.
from Knoxville Writers’ Guild Anthology 2008
Included in Holy Ground, 2009
I see her now, the long front porch
ragged rails and raw plank flooring
walking stooped to the willow rocker.
She sits with her bible
preaching duty and sin to her grandchildren.
I see hands thin and wrinkled
that work like instruments of precision
small finger bent to neat hook
a gift from her ancestors
stringing and breaking beans
peeling potatoes, peeling apples
to dry in the hot summer sun.
Shift dress from four sacks
bun of hair held in place
a hairpin color of red-eye gravy.
My little Babe, she called me
maybe her favorite girl child
(she loved the boy more
the only one among girls)
and said , she’ll be a nurse.
I didn’t want it but it happened that way.
from Holy Ground, 2009
Order this book from
3601 Wilderness Road
Knoxville, TN 37917
$15.00 plus $3.00 package and posting
"Ruth Grubbs writes poetry and prose that is powerful,earthy, and true. Her writing is, in turn, humorous, enlightening, joyful, and haunting. She charms her readers with an authentic Appalachian voice that hails directly from the heart."