Wednesday, March 11, 2009



It was early spring,
when we walked
between the mountains,
bloodroot blotching
the ground like
patches of snow.
Chimney smoke
layered heavy in
the Appalachian valley,
obscuring the fruit
saplings in blue haze.

Over by the creek,
we came upon an
old mountain woman
eating turtle egg soup
in the shadows
of the beechnuts -
her mouth a darkened
slash in sallow skin,
eyes dark lined
and bright blue;
her hands two knots
and sweet smelling
from the black lye soap
she made from the
rendered fat of her pigs.

The soup and her smile
were both offered to us,
and we took both kindly –
the soup in delft bowls.
You slurped yours to be
polite and I spilled mine
out when I knew she
wasn’t watching me.

The old woman smiled
and wiped the grease of
the soup from her lips
onto her black mourning
sleeve, until it shone
like a mirror - reflecting
the shapes of the clouds
above us.

She laughed as she
hugged her shy old breasts,
and bade us to return one day.

Later in life,
when I was starving,
I dreamt of turtle eggs
rolling off marble sills
onto polished floors.
Like ping pong balls,
they bounced and rolled
into all the corners
of my existence,
piling up against
the doors and windows
of my youth,
falling and rolling
into my middle aged years –
soft, leathery, cream-colored
giant pearls, mystical
in their spherical-ness…
falling and rolling.


Karen said...

I think what I love most about your poetry is the unexpectedness of it. Just when I think I'm reading about an Appalachian woman and your walk in the springtime, I find I'm really reading about memories and needs and gifts and pearls of great price.

You have a unique way of turning the most ordinary of things into the most extraordinary.

I'm sooooo glad I found you here. You write your heart, and I love sharing in that.

jack sender said...

It's a pleasure to step along the old ground with you, not too distant from my Ohio roots.

I liked the way the memories came in dream to pile at the doors and windows of your youth.

Best wishes,

Aniket said...

This was so beautifully written. One can easily see that it came straight from the heart.

Makes one think of all the offerings life presented for which we were not thankful enough.

I'll savour the turtle eggs next time I get them...

Thanks you so much for this.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Karen, I am happy that we found each other again. I am enjoying your poetry very much, as are so many others.

For some reason, I am thinking of how we skipped American Lit class or English Lit class and sat out on the piazza to talk about (what else) our reading assignments in Am Lit or English Lit.

It was, as if, we wanted to talk about the stories, poems, authors...but in the way we wanted to view them - and not the way the profs saw it. lol...Seems like eons ago...guess it was!

Thanks so much for all the kind words and support of my work, Karen. It means a lot. <3 ;)

Jack, I am so happy to have you visit OMM. I appreciate your kind remarks. You are right, Ohio is just a hop, skip, and a jump from WV. I visited my uncle's farm in Ohio many times. Please stop in again, soon. ;)

Aniket, What a beautiful sentiment you have written.

" Makes one think of all the offerings life presented for which we were not thankful enough."

So true. Let's be thankful for everything shared with us by whatever form it comes.

I appreciate your wisdom.
Thank you.

Julie said...

This is so beautifully written. The details in the beginning set the tone...bloodroot, woodsmoke, etc. I am instantly lulled into the woods with you.

The story that comes next is awesome. I LOVE that old lady, and I love the narrator and her partner for being so good to the old lady.

Then you bring us into a deeper level of understanding at the end. Fantastic work, K. I have a wonderful experience every time I visit your blog.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Julie - Blessings to you, dear one, and many thanks for all your good words. It is a pleasure to have such appreciative readers. I am humbled. *?*

Catvibe said...

First, the imagery of her wiping her sleeve until it was so shiny you could see the clouds, WoW! That is truly poetry, taking two things that simply don't belong together at all and marrying them so beautifully. Second, there is something so incredibly deep about the final stanza. It's like when we are young, we just are willing to pass off the tendernesses and gifts given to us, and when we are old enough to understand them, they become pearls. Just an amazing poem K.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Cat - Thank you for your great comments. You illustrate a deep understanding of what I intended with this poem. I appreciate your support of my work and always welcome your reflections. Thanks, Cath.

Margaret said...

This beautiful poem takes us so incredibly deep into the journey. Starting off so innocently with an early spring walk between the mountains. Then we meet up with this amazing old woman. I could picture her exactly and could taste the greasy turtle soup. I even found myself wiping my mouth while reading!
The last stanza is just wonderful, I'm lost for words to describe it. Instead of trying to do that, I'll just finish off here and enjoy reading through it again...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Margaret -I so appreciate your taking this walk with me. It is very satisfying, as a writer, to be able to transport a person from their present reality into the images and/or visions I have created. Thank you so much for the nice compliment.

Dave King said...

Superb - narrative poetry at its best.

Bob said...

Beautiful poem... the image you begin with is so captivating... BUT, you then really hit it home with your final stanza, your dream... I love a poet who can really end a poem on a higher note than it began... brilliant, Kaye... I love it.

Anonymous said...

"her mouth a darkened
slash in sallow skin,
eyes dark lined
and bright blue;"--splendid imagery, bravo. I love this piece in particular.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Dave, thanks for that wonderful compliment. I really appreciate your kind words, especially coming from such an accomplished writer as yourself.

Bob, I was hoping that this would build for the reader. I wrote a much longer version - but, it read so surreally, that even I thought it was weird and distorted. lol - The orignial title was "This Tree of Bones"....if that gives any indication. Thanks as always for your kind support of my writing endeavors. It means so much to me, coming from one of the finest poets in Blogsville.

Clay - I take that as a high compliment, your being a master of character description, well a master writer. Thank you humbly, Mr. Darrow. ;)

laughingwolf said...

what a lovely remembrance, klg...

i've never tried turtle soup, eggs or turtle itself....

Paula and Skip said...

With English not my first language I so much appreciate this unexpectedness ... of finding your blog and the way your poetry takes a humble German in enjoying it. Thank you

Sarah Hina said...

I love that you stretched the arms of time here, K. You embraced the past moment when you were young and it was present. And when you were older, you returned again, just like the old woman bade you. And embraced it in a different way.

Something about seeing the reflection of clouds in her mourning sleeve really touched me. Shadow and light. As always, K, you capture those hues, and everything in between. I don't know how you do it, but I'm so happy you do. You are profoundly gifted, my friend.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

LW - thank you. I never ate turtle egg soup either. Nor have I eaten turtle Oh wait, there are those chocolate turtles - but I guess they don't count. :)

Paula and Skip, Welcome to OMM. I am so happy that you stopped by. I am glad that you find my poetry to your liking, and hope you will visit here again soon. Thank you for your kind remarks. ;)

Hi Sarah, I can't thank you enough for those very gracious and kind words. It means so much - coming from one whose writing I much admire. I am so appreciative of readers, like you, who read and comment on my poetry in a reflective way. Thank you, dear blogger friend.

nollyposh said...

Oh sighhhhh... ~beautiful~ x

Anonymous said...

I've seen those plants. What a treat to have them live here!

So many of these images of the forest are dear to me, having now spent a number of years visiting the northern forests of beeches and beechnuts.

As the others of said, your poetry such a richness. Allegorical, yet very grounded in a artistic reality. Like living in both worlds. The pungent smoke of woodfires, and the lofty visions of the great, lost poets.

Vesper said...

Kaye, what a sweet, sad, nostalgic feeling your poems give me… and this one is no exception. There are so many brilliant images in here, my heart aches…

I’m so sorry I haven’t shown signs of my presence here lately. I hope you will forgive this restlesness that hasn’t allowed me to find the proper words to express my admiration for your poems, this one, and also “Taking Shape”, “A Poet in Lithuania”, and “For a Moment.” They are just wonderful, more than I could tell…. And so are the paintings of Merissa Gilbert Garrison.

joaquin carvel said...

this is one of those poems a reader can wander around in - lose track of time in - i really like how you drew me in with such a vivid and realistic scene, then, line by line, bend sense and perception and reality in such sublte ways - the first and last stanzas seem like they could be from completely different poems, but you've woven it with such skill that there doesn't seem to be a "turn" - just a bright, beautiful arc.

and i love "mystical
in their spherical-ness…" - gives me that sense of seeing an everyday something for the first time, really seeing it, and being amazed by it - see, i'm just wandering around...:)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

NollyPosh - you are so sweet. Thank you. I am enjoying your blog very much. It is so interesting and varied!

Hi Jason - Sometimes the field below the waterfalls in thick with bloodroot. It has a long history with the Native Americans.

I think you have described how I feel most times... living in two worlds, one of reality and the other of how I sense reality, artistically. There is a difference...

I know you share my love of the woods and mountains! Thanks so much for the kind words.

Vesper...You never have to apologize to me for anything. I respect you as a writer, poet, mother, and from what I have learned about you through your posts, a person. I am happy to see you here anytime you can manage. If that happens to be just once in awhile - that is fine. I know you support my endeavors, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Thanks for your comments on this poem and the others. I do appreciate it most sincerely. But, if you just want to come and read...don't feel that you have to comment. Just leave me a smile. I know Merissa appreciates your recognition of her artwork, as well. Thanks, Vesper. <3 ;)


Hi Joaquin, I love the way you wander around! You make more sense wandering than I make all day long deliberately staying on a given path!!

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your comment here. First of all, your comment is like reading a poem in and of itself. You drip language like honey - sweetly and languidly - but, always with a deep sincerity. You amaze me with your inherent understanding of the mechanics and meaning of my poetry.

As always, my poet friend, I appreciate you.

Aine said...

This is such a wonderful reminder to appreciate the true gifts of life: kindness, sharing, connection.

I worry for the youths who, unlike your characters, haven't learned to politely receive. Will they ever know what they have to appreciate? Will they have such pearls to fill their dreams and sustain them when needed?

As usual, thanks for sharing your wisdom!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine, thank you for the very insightful reflection on this poem. You have illustrated another aspect of the poem that, honestly, I had not thought of.

"Will they ever know what they have to appreciate? Will they have such pearls to fill their dreams and sustain them when needed?"

You raise two very fascinating questions here. Thank you so much for your astute perceptiveness! ;)

Ghost Dansing said...

beautiful poem.... among the fixations i fixated on the word bloodroot....

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi, Ghost Dansing - nice to see you. I appreciate your coming by this evening and leaving a comment and a fixation! Thanks!! ;)

Writer on Board said...

you made me long for turtle eggs. wonderful.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Writer on Board - Welcome to Old Mossy Moon. I truly appreciate your coming by and leaving me a comment. You know - I never could bring myself to eat a turtle egg! lol Hope you will visit again! ; KLG

Writer on Board said...

O. No. I would NEVER eat a turtle egg. Your poem was so moving that it made feel as if I had and as if I missed them. Nostalgia for things I'd never do. Like eat a turtle egg. What a poem.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Writer on Board - I think that is one of the best compliments ever paid to me as a poet. Thank you, dear one!!

LORENZO said...

I am glad to have found your blog. I too am a teacher and writer. Come visit my blog, you may enjoy it. LL

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Lorenzo - Welcome to you, and thank you for the invitation to visit you at your blog. I will be stop.

lilu said...

I just love this one. I can see the old woman perfectly. Beautiful work.

lilu said...

I just simply love this one.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Lilu - Hi, I am so happy to see you here! Yes, I thought this character was rather larger than life. She is mostly fictional - a composite of three old mountain women. And don't worry I never ate the soup!!!!! ;)))

Thanks for coming by Emily. <3

Anonymous said...

I love the way you manage to paint pictures in my mind, with your words, read.The descriptions make the images so clear. Lovely, you. Just really lovely.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Sarah - thank you so very much for stopping in. I am humbled by your wonderful words. Thank you for your kind remarks. ;)