Friday, March 20, 2009

Not My Fight? I Don't Think So...

Well Susanna, I am working on getting that post together about my kitchen. I will warn y'all firstoff - it is not a pretty room. Functional, but not pretty. That post is a'comin' either later this evening or tomorrow, whenever life settles down enough. Last evening I went shopping for things I could not put off buying until later, and by the time I got home I was too pooped to type.

Today I thought I'd update everyone on my most recent endeavor. My sister-in-law, Shirley, wrote a book called Bringing Down the Mountains, and is now working on her second endeavor - this time with the Sierra Club- on a book about mountain top removal. If you don't know about this current disaster state in West Virginia and most of Appalachia, then I suggest you educate yourself. Here you can get a good idea of what happens when a mountaintop is removed.

A Mountain top removal site - very moonscapish, eh? This was once verdant, green mountains!

For this second project, Shirl asked me to either draw her a picture or write a short piece for the book, and I came up with the idea for a poem. Since no one in my family (excepting those in Shirley's) have ever been employed by coal companies, it took me a while to find an angle from which to come at the subject. I knew what I wanted to say, but I did not want to come off sounding like an outsider talking about what I did not understand. This is something I constantly rail against myself - the last thing Appalachian culture needs is more local color writers!

I think I came up with a good poem, and I hope that it inspires others to not only realize the problems of mountain top removal, but also that we ALL have a part in it. Here is the poem I wrote for the book:

Not My Fight

I know nothing about coal mining,
Or the miner’s poor soul.
A coal company’s decisions don’t affect me
I’m told.—
There’s no coal to be mined
In the place where I dwell—
So I should ignore that
You’re turning heaven into hell.

Up here in Pendleton,
There’s no coal in sight—
No mines in these mountains
And green valleys so wide.
No tipples on the clifftops
Where the eagles fly high—
And you tell me there’s no part
For me in this fight.

On my family’s homeplace,
We’ve lived three hundred years.
All full of loving, laughter and tears—
Yet our sorrows are eclipsed
By the tragedies of coal,
Where fortunes in business
Are bought with the soul.

Words cannot render
The beauty I see
When I sit on my front porch
And look around me.
My mountains are safe now,
But how long will it be
Before some bought politician
Sells off my heritage?

My home in the mountains
Is worth more than gold.
There’s no advantage for me
To do as you’ve told.
There’s no way I’m buying
What you’re trying to sell—
I hope your profits will save you,
When you’re burning in Hell.

I hope you enjoyed that - and be sure to pick up a copy of Shirley's Bringing Down the Mountains. I will also let you all know when her next book comes out. Until then, I will keep everyone updated on my house renovation... next up - the kitchen!

4 comments:

Lanny said...

So there is a rumor out here in the west that given enough time your hills recover themselves with appropriate vegetation etc. much like the St. Helen volcano blast sites.

Jason Burns said...

That may be true provided the topsoil is left intact - but when you scrape off the first mile and a half of earth, all that's left is rocks that haven't seen sunlight in over 300 million years or better.

Granny Sue said...

Green may cover them but they never regain their natural shape. The joke here is that these sites are being touted as great for malls and airports. Where these mines are usually located? Not likely spots for hordes of people to visit.

Jason Burns said...

I know - never underestimate the power of NOT thinking.