I Believe There Is Light In The Darkness by Hayden Beatty

I believe that there is light in the darkness and through perseverance it can be found. For many of us we end up in this bottomless pit of life where we know longer know what our purpose is which leads us into a dark world of torment. We often forget about the things that we have all around us everyday that make life worth living. Many will eventually find that light but for some the torment lasts to long.

            My life was an undeniable hell. Life was colorless, relationships were meaningless, and life felt miserable. I woke up exhausted every day, I constantly found that life’s joys were not for me anymore, and I constantly started asking myself what my purpose in this world was. I soon found myself being pumped full of an SSRI called Zoloft and was soon maxed out on my dosage.

 I became a zombie, wandering through life as the beauty and exponential experience’s life had to offer passed me by.

 I wanted to scream but my mouth wouldn’t let me. My family and friends would all say about how much better I appeared to be doing but the medication put a mask over me so that no one could see the true pain and emptiness I was feeling. I felt like the soul from within me left in a haste and left me an empty shamble of a shell.  I was a burden to my family, society, and felt as though I had no purpose or direction. To me, life was merely existing until you die, life was unfair, cruel, and seemed like a punishment.

I made the decision to end my life.

 Did I want to die? No, but I did not want to live either.

             The night before my suicide, I had a dream; in this dream I met my creator. I may not remember what was said but I was granted internal peace and was shown that the light is all around us. The colors we see every day, the people we interact with and the love that we give and share with others. I awoke out of breath having no sense of time and feeling as if I had just experienced death.

Six years of repressed emotion began to pour out of me uncontrollably for about two days.

            For the first time I felt new but most importantly I felt alive.

 I felt emotion that I could not explain and saw the beauty that the world had to offer. I finally felt the love of those around me.

            I do not know what I experienced that night, but I know I was given a second chance and an opportunity to reach out to those struggling with maintaining the will to live. I believe there is light in the darkness.

A Family’s Foundation by Maggie Possinger

I am often told I am just like my mom. We work at the same business, and frequently our fellow employees compare us.

            “When something goes wrong, you both say, ‘shoot it’.”

            “You’re both so patient and kind to customers.”

            “You’re just so much alike.”

            I never mind being told I am like my mother. She has a generous spirit, a solid work ethic, and most of all, she has hard-earned wisdom. Yet, while we act the same, we do not seem to look alike. She has those green-blue-hued eyes that change with what color she wears. Her hair is curly, blonde, and coarse. She has slight dimples that frame her naturally straight teeth.

            I am often told I am just like my dad. Our church congregation continually makes these comparisons.

            “You have the same humor as your dad.”

            “You’re good with technology just like your dad.”

            “You’re just like your dad.”

            I never mind being told I am like my father. He is passionate, driven, and most of all, he values his time and uses it wisely. Yet, while we act the same, we do not seem to look alike. He has hazel eyes, a balance of green and brown. His salt and pepper hair carries a few strands of red in the middle of his even hairline. He has a longer nose, and his chin is more defined than mine.

            Despite the fact I am so much like my parents, I am not their biological child. I was adopted from China when I was eleven months old. I share no blood with them and no DNA, yet I am so much like my parents. For as long as I can remember, I knew I was adopted; it was never hidden from me. How could it be when I clearly have white parents? I have one brother. He shares their blood. He has their eyes, their chin, their smile. Yet, he is not loved more than me. He is not treated better than me. He does not act as if he’s better than me.

            I believe in unconditional love. I am different than my family. I have silky black hair, brown almond-shaped eyes, and a pudgy nose. I share no DNA with the people I have lived with for the past 18 years. But blood has never mattered, and it never will matter. I have always felt love and acceptance from my family; there was never a time I doubted my place in our home. A family must be built upon unconditional love. How can we be expected to live with people if we cannot look past their flaws or outer appearance? Unconditional love has the power to unite even the most opposite of people.

            Most of the time, people forget I am adopted because all they see is the love shared between our family. It does not matter how one comes into a family; a family is made through love.

My Own Safe Place by Michelle Bupp

Thursday October twenty third 1980 was the last day we saw my dad.  I vividly remember waving with my sister from the back seat of our opal watching my parents hug for the last time.  My dad boarded the S.S. Poet.  To this day the ship and its crew of thirty-four merchant mariners remain a mystery.  I have less than a dozen memories of him.  The ones I do have are filled with love, joy and the eyes of a three almost four-year-old little girl. 

A child of that age can not have memories of her dad that disappeared at sea.  A psychologist once told me.  These may be “stories,” that you were told about your dad.  It’s impossible to remember because the personality is still in the early developmental stages.  Rest assured the memories I have are mine.  In 1980 counseling services were scarce and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was finally added to the diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Six years ago, after a meeting I was crying to a friend saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me?”  She said, “honey, nothing is wrong with you, you have PTSD.”  A light bulb went off in my head.  At my next medication check visit with my psychiatrist, I informed him what happened.  He pulled out his DSM-V and said in a matter-of-fact way, “yes, it is.”  I remember sitting there thinking all this time that is what I was dealing with and no one ever pointed that out? 

I was a volunteer fire fighter and ambulance attendant for almost one year before dropping out of community college and joining the Army.  Being diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder in the Army after not sleeping for three days can throw anyone into a manic phase.  I was devasted that my Army days were over.  My honorable discharge ended my military career and started me on a journey to self-discovery when I turned twenty-five years old.  Only starting to scratch the surface with understanding how PTSD controls one’s life can be overwhelming at times.  Due to my understanding and appreciation for this life I can sometimes control the anxious thoughts.

On a women’s retreat in January of this year I was lying in bed during a sleepless night.  Thank God they don’t happen as often as they use to.  I started to pray and remembered what my last therapist asked me about my “safe place.”  I had informed her my safe place was my home.  This particular night while praying over my body, I realized I am my own safe place.  I didn’t have my husband to comfort me or cry to.  I didn’t have my husky/border collie mix to sooth my tears.  I didn’t have my couch to curl up on and I didn’t have my computer to write.  I was all alone in the dark saying thank you God, I am my own safe place.  

Not Everyone Loves Democracy by Eric Schwartz

At 3 a.m., the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere so the cramped passengers could stretch their legs, use the lavatory, smoke a cigarette. I was standing by the bus, when a guy – let’s call him Timur – asked me what I was doing there. It was a fair question. I was clearly not a native of this small former republic of the Soviet Union.

“I’m a journalist,” I replied. “I’ve been teaching journalism in Ganje,” referring to the provincial capital about six hours away.

“Oh. A journalist. You probably support democracy too.”

“Yes. Actually, I do.”

“Democracy. I hate democracy.”

Timur spit out the words like something noxious and vile.

I don’t think we had much more a conversation. I didn’t present a philosophical defense of democracy. I didn’t really know how to respond. Like many Americans, I never seriously considered that an alternative to democracy might be superior. But Timur did – and when I stepped back from the conversation, I understood his position. After all, ten years earlier any bus there was vulnerable to hijacking by bandits. For many in that country, democracy meant violence and corruption. It meant that the steady job you held for decades was suddenly irrelevant. It meant that comfortable truths were toppled. The well-connected became suddenly very wealthy, while the mass of the population struggled amid a web of graft and cynicism. That’s how Timur understood democracy. No wonder he hated the word.

Fifteen years have now passed. I talk about democracy to students as part of my job – but I avoid referring to any country as a democracy. I think of democracy as an abstract noun. A landscape or a flower is not “beauty.” Those things are more or less beautiful – just as a country is more or less democratic. When I talk about democratic institutions, I mean laws and practices that make government accountable to the governed. Because of accountability, the government must respond to the people. The more democratic a country, the more all people are fully and equally represented. Maybe this sounds fine – but the reality is that maintaining democratic institutions requires vigilance, compromise and patience. It’s hard. Frequently people become impatient, dissatisfied with a process that is complicated and slow.

The country where Timur and I spoke 15 years ago is still ruled by the man who held power then. In Europe, an authoritarian state now is invading a country that was governed democratically. And in my country last year, for the first time in its history, insurgents attempted to thwart a peaceful democratic transfer of power. Millions of Americans increasingly sound more like Timur, scornful of this thing we call democracy.

I’m not as naïve as I was 15 years ago. I don’t assume people yearn for democracy. I recognize that many who profess to revere democracy don’t like democratic institutions. But I believe principles of democracy like honesty, fairness, and accountability are more important than ever. And these principles always must be defended.

Academic teaching is a second career for Eric Schwartz, who worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for a couple of decades in the United States and abroad. He returned from Russia in the late 1990s to earn an master’s in international relations from Syracuse University and a master’s and Ph.D in political science from Binghamton University. After finishing his course-work for his doctorate, he trained journalists in Azerbaijan and Russia for a couple of years. Eric started teaching political science at Hagerstown Community College in 2012. He teaches American government, media and politics, international relations, comparative politics, constitutional law and environmental policy. He lives near the Potomac River with his wife Margaret Yaukey and three cats in Williamsport, MD.

My Earliest Motivation by Mike Harsh

MOTIVATION:  the experience I recall from my days as a “Mackerel-snapping, booger-picking, bead-counting” Catholic school kid –

      The legacy of my Catholic education was probably what led me to teaching as a profession in the first place. I have always been the kind of person who is determined to show people who make judgments about my abilities just how wrong they are, so my desire to become a teacher grew from my earliest experiences in first grade. It was there that I was a victim of the most notorious member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame ever to strap on a rosary: Sister Mary Iguana-breath. I doubt that was really her “professed” name, but it certainly describes for my memories one of her outstanding personal characteristics.

      Her physical dimensions were better suited to professional wrestling than to teaching first graders, as she must have topped the scales at 350 pounds of righteous flesh wrapped in 10 yards of heavy black cotton fabric and sealed with reams of starched white sail-cloth.

      Sister Iguana-breath decided from the first day we met that I was not the ideal student. Of course, the fact that I yanked one of my classmate’s pig-tails so hard from behind that she cried and wet her pants had nothing to do with that impression! Clearly, she concluded, I was a trouble-maker from Williamsport and needed severe correction. Repeated correction.

      Our class was arranged into “ability groups” for subjects, especially Reading and Math. The front of the room was where the seats of distinction were: these were for the “Eagles” and “Cardinals,” the top brown-nosers. Next, in the middle of the room, were the “average-ability” students: “Bluebirds” and Robins,” not her favorites, but still, in her mind, trainable.

Then came my group. There were two of us: Cletus and me. We were the “Starlings,” but the rest of the class called us the “Birdshit” group. Classy students, we little Catholics. Sister had determined that we were not teachable, and that all she could do was discipline us in preparation for our future careers in reform school and the state prison. That’s all the motivation Clete and I needed. We were determined to prove her wrong.

      It’s now 65 years later. Clete owns an entire city block of Philadelphia and runs the leading toxic-waste disposal business in Pennsylvania. He also has donated a scholarship in the name of Sister Mary Zoo-breath to Loyola College.

      Me? After having finished a Bachelors degree, a Masters degree, and almost all of a Doctorate, I will soon celebrate my 45th year in teaching other “Eagles,” “Robins,” and more than a few “Birdshitters” how to achieve academic success. It is a profession I would likely never have entered if Sister had not developed so strong a negative opinion of my lack of academic prowess.

      Bless your pungent vapor, Sister. I would have never made it without you!

Little Blessings of a Bitter Curse by Rachel Babylon

I believe infertility is a blessing and a curse. Hearing this may widen eyes and raise eyebrows. Afterall, infertility is the taboo topic of the baby-making world. Oftentimes, when people hear the word infertility, they automatically become uncomfortable; they shut down, change the subject, look away, or assure the speaker (most likely the one with infertility) that they do not truly embody that word.

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) eleven years ago. I was young, naïve, and fifteen, and all I understood was that although PCOS was common and overall manageable, the biggest obstacle was the potential of infertility.

There were warning signs I hoped would resolve themselves: missed or late periods, cycles that lasted for over sixty days, and bleeding that wouldn’t stop until I was in the ER. When they didn’t, I fearfully waited for the confirmation; I had fertility issues due to anovulation.

My husband was aware of my diagnosis, the extra steps it might involve, the heartbreak it would inevitably cause, the uncertainties of the outcome in our journey. Yet, no one around us seems to accept it. They are horrified every time as if uttering the reality of our quiet battle will somehow make my infertility worse. Perhaps if we didn’t mention it, our struggle simply wouldn’t exist. That’s how curses work, right? Karma or God has spited me for bearing and verbalizing my infertility and made it so. I’ve cursed myself.

But, over these long, tiring past two years of trying to get pregnant, I’ve realized that I still have small yet significant blessings that those with children no longer possess. I can noisily stumble out of bed at midnight to indulge in fast-food cravings anytime I want. I can organize relaxing vacations without worrying about child care or family-friendly requirements. I can come home from a grueling day of work, and my duties are done. I can even nap without fear of a child demanding my attention. These tiny blessings are the little bits of joy I will cherish for now; though I hope one day they will be only memories.

So, while we strive for a miracle, I’ve devoted myself to another passion: writing. I focus on writing in between taking multiple shots in my stomach, having my blood drawn repeatedly, a wand or speculum shoved up between my legs, swallowing pill after pill, and sobbing over insurance, all for the sake of attempting to create a miniscule human atom.

            I’ve realized that without experiencing infertility, I wouldn’t be fortunate enough to tell others the labor of it. I would not be able to clutch the hands and hearts of other men and women who are silently and agonizingly going through the same fight. I believe if we do not speak of infertility, it will remain a raw burden that many of our brothers and sisters will suffer from in isolation, and they will not accept the hidden blessings that come with curses.

Rachel Babylon started as a student at HCC in 2013 and graduated with an Associate of English. In 2019, she earned her Bachelor of English through the University of Maryland Global Campus. After working at the Washington County Free Library for six years, Rachel came back to HCC this past January, as a Learning Support Specialist in Writing and Research at the LSC. She lives locally with her husband of almost four years, Connor, their two cats, Ember and Hazel, and their dog, Nova. Currently, Rachel is working on a YA fantasy novel, which she started in 2021 during National Novel Writing Month. When she isn’t writing or working, Rachel loves to take walks, play video games, listen to true crime podcasts, sing, doodle, organize and rearrange her home, and document her pets’ lives on their personal Instagram @emberthetortiecat.

It’s Just Some Plastic by David Buckwalter

I stared down at the small plastic wrapper in the quiet parking lot. It was freezing and I just wanted to get in my car, but for some reason I couldn’t. I knew in a flash that the wind could come and take away the wrapper before my eyes, never to be seen again. But it certainly would’ve been thought of again. In that instant, a thousand scenarios flashed through my mind. Maybe this tiny wrapper flies away to the ocean, contributing to the ever-growing mound of trash that destroys the sea life. Or maybe it would blow into someone’s yard, ruining their perfectly green landscape they worked hard to maintain. Perhaps it would not blow away at all, but rather sit in the parking lot for eternity, forever a reminder than some young man refused to pick up this trash.

Many people wouldn’t think twice about such a small wrapper, but I didn’t want to be like those people; people who would take a shortcut for their convenience while disregarding such major consequences that they would never deal with. In that moment, however, I was tempted to be that person. “It’s just a wrapper after all, right? It won’t actually cause any harm.” The cold air told me these things, while my mind fought back.

Is this who I am? Someone who can see the disaster a mile away, and yet just… walk away? I’m supposed to be someone good, someone who cares about the earth and the people around me. I want to fix the problems of the world, certainly not make them. I couldn’t possibly live with myself knowing that ignored such a big deal, even if it wasn’t my wrapper. It reveals a lot about someone who casually can walk past some trash without feeling at least a little guilt.

I made my decision. I braved the cold and walked over towards the little piece of plastic. I knelt down, picked it up, went over to the nearest trashcan, and tossed away the potential guilt. Sure, it was only a tiny wrapper, but all the issues in the world once started out that size. I believe that the only way to fix these problems and make the world a better place is by taking small steps, over and over.

Rolling Dough In a Tiny Apartment by Robert Beveridge

When the last piece

of Waterford hits

the floor, disintegrates,

you realize that perhaps

Dragnipur isn’t the best

pin you could use, switch

to a dowel hewn

from the very heart

of your sister’s jealousy

when you went to the prom

with the shattered spirit

of last Tuesday’s Algebra

III test and she didn’t.


Did you ever see that movie

where the guy and his ragtag

band of buddies (because no

band of buddies in any movie

ever is a monolith) try

to escape the Gestapo

down a convenient chute

and end up in a trash

compactor that’s just

about ready to do its thing?

You’ve often wondered

whether 3C, beneath you

is a real apartment,

or whether the rumble

that shakes the building

every Saturday at 3AM


sends the remnants

of crystal, mandrake root,

flour, yeast, sugar, cornmeal,

natural logarithms, and your

father’s collection of SS

medals into the channels

beneath the city that teem

with the uniform rat squad

and the inevitable morning-

after messy breakups

on their way to the sea

where, you hope,

there will be more room

to make these empanadas.

Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Medium Chill, Mulberry Literary, and Remington Review, among others.

Pernicious by Robert Beveridge


is the split

wrist, the licked

blood. Fingers

pressed to lips, taste

of copper,

feel of oil.



is the way the cells

crave. They die

with the numb force

of need. Fed, though,

they continue

content, satisfied.


You kiss

the knitted scar

that holds my wrist.

I yours.

This is the exchange,

the fluid commerce

between our mouths,

our lungs, our legs.


This is what we are,

what we will be,

transitive creatures

that flow, amoebic.

We ingest exercise,

starvation, give forth

what strength we can.


We circle

in this cycle

of anemia,

this thirst

for liquid essence.

We are the halves

that fuse to whole,

become the Rounded Man.


This has a name,

a term. It is




we feast

on one another,

break skin, sup,

are satiated.



is the split

wrist healed.


We go forth,



Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Medium Chill, Mulberry Literary, and Remington Review, among others.

Is The Twining by Susan Gordon 

For the last twelve years, John and me till the cove bottom land, the dirt deep, dark, spring-fed, the land John and me has held against the evil of lumber men, city men, John say, with no knowing and no caring for the beauty as hold us. Bottom land and seep, higher on Bayard is the dirt-holding oaks, and farther up, maple, beech, birch, and further still a crown of red spruce circling a blue grass bald.

Used to be, on our front porch, come summer, we could look cross a little bit a field, cross glint gold water, and up Middle Mountain, a green with trees. No more. There is hemlocks and moss our side, but couple mule lengths on cross that fork, we see damnation every day, the death dealing that haunts us. Not a single tree is standing, just stumps and slash, limestone and black cove dirt, nothing to hold her, making sludge of that far-side fork.

We is the only green thing we can see when we has climbed high as the knob goes, push aside spruce limbs and look down through birch and maple woods still holding bob-cats, fleeing turkeys, the few remaining bears. John has walked east, clear to Franklin and come home, near broke and death clinging to him. He ain’t spoke what he seen.  

John’s words is bit back but is now he sees my need of finding anything living beyond us. “Liza, we’s in a war, bad as the Federals fought 60 years back, and we got to see if there is others standing with us.” He pull a breath, “Liza,” he say, his bust up hands tugging at dark hair, elbows pushing into the table, the evening candle holding us in a spill a light, “got to see if there is more ridges with birch, with spruce that is wind singing, forks ain’t fouled, fish living, if there’s meadows for the wild beasts and the ones as claim us.  If is, we’s got hook and nets, can sew us together, make a stand.”

I hear these words silver through me, reasons we got, him and me, for him to go, and me, to stay.

This morning John left. Is a pledge we made. He will seek. I will guard.

Now, I is wondering if my stitching will hold patches to jeans been pounded and scrubbed til they is thin of thread. Last night, John hammered new tacks to hold worn sole to boot leather.  The tow-sack he carry is thin a food, dried apples, wrinkled carrots, last year’s scurvy onions,  early peas.

I know he will come back to me if he can, if he live. Is a chance we take to know what may still be green.

So, aholding John against my heart, a rocking back and forth, a keening comfort to him cross that black slaughter of a mountain, I hoes the weeds outta the ankle high corn I had tilled with our Hiram mule when oak leaves begun uncurling middle a May.  I is pulling in the smell of them lined, green leaves will shelter corn, them leaves still soft, bending. I work that blade through our garden patch, careful through cold planted onions and potatoes, through bush beans, fledgling carrots, and hand high tomatoes, cotton twined to stakes, twine be loosened and replaced with brown cord as the tomatoes set yellow flowers, thicken hairy stems and toughen. I is feeling the early coming a summer, sun a warming my shoulders. And it settles me into a day of doing, of tending and keeping what is ours.

As the sun rests just above that dead mountain, I calls our red and brown banty hens from pecking in the yard and fastens them in their sapling coop to keep them safe from fox and owl, though in the killing of their home place, them as savors chicken is now scarce, but when seen, twice as hungry.

The sun slip west; I is praying John find a lime cave, a hollow log for sleeping. I stand on the porch, whispering a prayer, “be safe, John, be safe.”

I is thinking on us, hows we got this seeking a green, how it come to us what got to be done.

John spoke his. This my sorrow, my knowing. 

Many a day, Annie milked, turned out in her pasture, I throw a leg over Hiram, lay my face in his brush, wraps my arms neath his neck and that mule, he pull, bend, and climb Bayard, not quick, slow. I’d just feel his heat a rising with my head pressed to the curve of his redbone neck, shiny now with the climb. I’d look down, not minding my feet, he minding feet for me, I just lean and watch what beneath us, duff so thick, the roots is took. In late September, leaves, maple, red; birch, yellow; beech, orange come tattering down and lay ankle deep, a quilt a color, and, in fall rain, is a sodden brown making more dirt. That good mule’s unshod feet sometimes clip stone that become, just a length beyond, rising ledges a white rock, and them holding damp green, wavy tripe.

Hiram can be caught in the September prickle wind as make its way cross steep slope, and bunch his hind quarters, clear downed trees covered with turkey tail as I lean forward, legs tight, bottom raised and whoop as we canter up hill, then slow, hearing them new felled leaves crackle against his fetlocks.

And early spring, oh, John and me know where to find the little men mushrooms with their pitted hats, and, I’se shown him all the places ramps is to be found.

Riding Hiram, on an early May day, last freeze just past, head bent to the earth, I is seeing each thing like it laid in the palm of my hand. Afore the maple, oak, beech leaves uncurl, there is yellow violet, leaves a pure green heart, and what the trapper, Jim, call columbine, showy flower, pointing red petals to sun only reach deep woods in early spring; there is wake robin, its three petals, rosy, with a yellow center, fluttering up from a folding nest. There is white and yellow breeches with their little hollow pants, upside down and filled with air.  There is blue larkspur, rising five petaled on a slim reed, with the prettiest leaves, like the cut lace I seen under the glass of Mervin Sharpe’s store counter. Another blue is phlox, some short stemmed, some brushing the bottom of Hiram’s cannon bones. They got rounded petals, five, too, like that the number God want.

 And birds, afore the logging, there was yellow and black warblers, the little brown creeper working her way up bark of an oak, flattening herself so the hawk ain’t see her, the rust-colored thrasher, he with moren a hundred songs, every one of them sung twice, and, in spring, the ground dwelling whip-poor-will with his night call. All year, they is a small grey and yellow bird, got a pointed crest, masked as any raccoon, whistling high, from the tops of maples. And winter, the little pine finch, with yellow barred wings, loves the highest needles of the spruce.

As we climb, I see moss, slathering logs like spread butter gone spright and green. Oh, moss is many. She ain’t one. There is some is pale green, kinda flighty in her standing, yet growing in such a way look like the fork when she light lapped with wind. The dirt beneath that light moss is dark, and crumbly with little lives. And the trees grow above her is straight and tall. Still in deep a run of woods, there is another, much darker moss, and wove through, almost like knotted hair, is bits of red. When I bends over, I sees each one is like a petaled daisy, a step back, a whole deep green field of them. There is others look to be reaching, tiny stars, like they might have left little pinpricks in heaven.

And finally, curled low, waist bent over his withers, halter rope loose, cause Hiram going to his loved place, we make our way cross duff of spruce needles, and out into our blue grass bald. We has skirted laurel, thick and tangling, a good yard taller than John’s head. When I was a girl, Jim, told me stories of many a too quick man, seeking a short way through, about the greedy man think he draw his saw through poplar or oak, been caught in laurel’s pretty pink and leather twist, and starved, his stealing curbed.

All this is beneath us and along us as we climb. We pass beneath spruce so old; first branches must be thirty foot from the ground, but Lord they carry a fine, lonesome fiddle song. And at last, on the blue grass bald, I see, depending on the time a year, late spring, deep summer, the flowers that love a field: pink pasture rose, pale purple ironweed, the goldy milkweed bring the yellow swallowtails, the blue winged butterflies, sometimes the orange beauties with their swirls of black dots and stripes. There is the thin light blue fringe of aster, with its yellow center. And, a beauty, name never knowed, with the smell of mint, green stem sometimes high as my chest, but the flower, a white, spiky crown, only long as the joint of my thumb. 

I has looked on across, seeking colors and seen me a feast a flowers. Now I lay on my belly, the blue grass carrying a shush a sound, and watch the beasts so tiny, flick a finger break a leg or wing. Is this, this, that take me. These tiny things. These tiny things. Sometimes, belly down, I wonder what will happen to these, the least of these, but is the twining of them that make life in these mountains.

John and me, we seen life took, we seen fire, seen it around Davis, seen it licking at Osceola. We seen what been stole by money-grubbing men feeding dollar fifty a day into the empty pockets of proud mountain men. Here is a list of the stealing. Moss, say dirt is dark and sweet, is gone, leaving only burnt rock. The tender pinks, yellows, blues of petals finding sun beneath still unfurled, unfeathered trees, is gone. Oak, maple, poplar, birch, spruce been two-man sawed to stump and slash. There ain’t a thrush, a warbler that sing, nor a flicker that hammer. Is death that lean it’s whisper toward us. The sallys, wet-skinned, on twist of water legs, is burnt as sausage. We has tripped over fire-hardened claw roots as near as Five Lick. We seen the belly of the earth, skinned from the first ridge west of us, thickening our fork, we seen brookies belly up.

I sits on the porch, on one of the high, split log chairs that John made us, and watches across that dimming mountain. At last, the dark is a shawl about my shoulders. I turn and I bury my face in its soft weave, letting a thanking blindness come. Now, in black solace, I see the trees are green again, the fork clear, brookies is gathering in hemlock shaded pools, and the doe and her youngins has come to evening drink from the shallows. But, for all that wished sight, I know it ain’t so. There ain’t a sough a needles cross the creek, ain’t the chug a frogs, even the tuft ear owl is silent, his hollow tree stole from him.So, broke, my mind turns to our tore wings, to the knowing me and John, this bit a land, still holding deep starred moss, bleeding hearts, red spruce, with her short green needles and brown egg cones, redder maples, yellow leaf birch, bloodroot in the woods, boneset by the seep, ain’t, ain’t strong enough to hold slaughter back, not alone. And the words I spoke to the thin-legged, black-winged bug on a stem a grass come back to me, “what happen to these, to the least of these?” But I know, sure, that day, “is the twining of them that make life in these mountains.” Is the twining of these little bits that is the true feeding of us, not the spade in the ground, the plow a corn, the potato or cabbage. Jim showed me that when I was thirteen. Is the teaching he give, deeper any book, that says we is wove with these mountains and all has to live for any to live.

Susan Gordon is a prose writer of both fiction and memoir.  She is also a poet, storyteller, and narrative therapist.  She is the winner of the Concrete Wolf Press chapbook competition and her long poem, There Is a Doe in a Winter Hayfield, was published in the fall of 2016.  Susan is currently at work on a novel set in the Cheat watershed in in the early 1900’s, a time when the West Virginia Alleghanies were clear cut of every standing tree, the land burned, and north running rivers flooded to Pittsburgh. In this novel, she follows the lives of Liza and John Ingram, who live at the seep beginnings of Laurel Fork below Bayard Knob, who fight to keep their land from being lumbered out. Susan lives in Frederick, Maryland and hopes to visit the five forks of the Cheat, again, this spring.