Deep in the Grain by William Rieppe Moore

Deep in the Grain

       Allanstand, North Carolina

Yep, I can pick a pound of beans
in a heartbeat—all while

A wishing Lord Lovel good speed,
visit empty nests that hid in vine

and leaf, before the noon thunder-
storms, since the moon refills its jar:

come Sarsaparilla, Harebells,
and Spotted Touch-me-nots,

Indian Poke for you-know-whats:
Black walnuts’ poisonous bark,

tea of inner bark—smallpox balm
(hold up the hospice alarm),

strewn in streams will kill
the fish with rising scale

to make a crystal ripple near the air;
crickets will scratch handy strings

of a day, but wooly worms will
bloat in cowbird-colored coats.

       Tiger Valley, Tennessee

A step anywhere leads to a summit,
and I don’t admire to climb

what is steeper than straight up
where no fire roars, panthers yowl

as if they lacked hog jowl for
cracklin’ bread or cracklin’ bread

altogether, and the narrow light has
to be pried open with a crowbar

in the tilted hollers. Old Man
Tilson might brag of his Mayflower

heritage, but we all know
that his people got to England

in riveted horns by followin’
a clouded stone and singin’ along

with a current of backwind
the words I dream in sentences:

When the corn is in the crib, we’ll
darken the door of the reverend.

       Shouns, Tennessee

Eatin’ apple butter with Red Hots
is like cookin’ with gas, ’cause

last time I ate that I throwed hay
with not so much as a hunger pang

until we saw a stubbled rattlesnake,
and I felt like I could eat again.

Down the mountain dust devils
swipe leaves about the ground—

cove-bound eastwind dizzied
into craggy corners of land—

like a volery of iffy wrens that twit,
Was that a worm or a wet oakleaf

stem?” Go up and then fan out to
down like things floatin’ on a wheel

inside another wheel, where the
Holy Ghost takes up shop, and

bores with a lathe deep in the grain,
a signature engraved with flame.

       Unaka Springs, Tennessee

Now I had been grafted in
like a swallow’s wing on the wind,

and I could hear Pa mutterin’,
somethin’…shit on a shingle.

When I reached the creek bank
it was loose and steep—

pearly mud-clods going
up and down, steady as

the clipped opossum with
a birdshot eye, just lookin’.

Then I saw brookies jump
two at once and clapped like

slimy hands with fingerprints.
I couldn’t talk fast enough, mute

as when I was behind steel bars
and didn’t have good sense

but still saw God in cinder brick
makin’ faces at my confidence.

       Fords Branch, Kentucky

The whole moon is strippin’
the alter of gilded recure,

and I’ve got ten bucks that says
the porch pumpkin’s rotten.

That choirboy thinks so much,
his ideals are bound to bud

into piles of leafdirt with a malt
liquor mist. His potatoes might

brew some of that clear slug;
but I shouldn’t think like this

in church. Last person who
walked the aisle looked like

part of her mountain had got
blasted off. O great upland,

speak for us before our places
soon become the poetry of was:

Toler Gap, Sookeys Creek,
Kewanee, and Compton.

William Rieppe Moore is from Richland County, South Carolina and moved to Unicoi County, Tennessee in 2012 with his wife, Cherith, where they practice homesteading and animal husbandry. In May of 2021, he received his MA in English from East Tennessee State University. His work has appeared in the James Dickey Review, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Still: The Journal, Vita Brevis, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal.

Editor’s Notes: [1] Allanstand, North Carolina is located near Mars Hill in Madison County that borders Tennessee; “Lord Lovel” is a Late Middle Ages ballad originally from England and anthologized by Francis James Child in the 19th century. [2] Tiger Valley, Tennessee is located south of Elizabethton and north of Roan Mountain in Carter County. [3] Shouns, Tennessee is south of Mountain City in Johnson County. [4] Unaka Springs, Tennessee is near Erwin in Unicoi County. [5] Fords Branch, Kentucky is located in Pike County.

Image Credit: Hay rake [wallpaperflare]