Alena Hairston

Route 44 to Route 52


The mountains begin
over and over
in the eyes spelling
out each unincorporated town
bound by the cartels of history,
clasts of deciduous time.

Today we drive
behind the forgetting trucks
heavy with the gravity of tomorrow,
a pulling work between the edge
of tipple and leftover mountain.

Rock shadows and silt seams
landlocked, this tectonics fleeting
in the now of absence.

There is rip and sash in your voice
as you mouth homecoming
in the various bitumen
of passing caves
which appear on no map.

We ride
past the coal camps and company
houses stoked in careless sun;
past adult children who know
more than we should,
standing firm and removed
like the cracked, handwritten signs
for peat and gravel roads too far
away to be called highways.

These are the fields of tar
that smoked our eyes,
took away the open welcome of quiet,
and did not love us back.