These poems, images and memories from ‘deep inside America’ take my breath away in their deceptive simplicity, leading me to a place ‘so deep inside myself that I no longer saw’, remembering the strong old women in my life, fearless, always working, hard and caring—survivors all.
I’ve seen the movies, read the books, being fed enough pre-digested information about the Appalachian Mountains, but never have I FELT the kinship, the solitude, the wisdom of rural women whose strength came from their earth, and who had to make life work. Gunter-Seymour tells her stories with vulnerability and honesty, a voice excruciatingly beautiful yet stark—a song from her roots: “My grandmother would say these are signs / of consequence, the significance / long lost to me with many mountain ways.”
The poet becomes the meeting place for yesterday and today, while tomorrow is still in abeyance. In the title poem, ‘I Come From A Place So Deep Inside America it Can’t Be Seen’ she writes:
“Gone are the magics and songs, / all the things our grandmothers buried— / piles of feathers and angel bones, / Inscribed by all who came before.”
“Everything alive aches for more.”
In the second poem of the collection, ‘The Weeds In This Garden’, Gunter-Seymour take us to the beginnings of a metamorphosis from dependent child to adult:
“Long ago, I built a self outside myself. / I ate what my family ate, answered / to my name, but when they said let us pray, I kept my eyes open. There is a price to be paid for resistance…”
Gunter-Seymour touches on secrets never spoken about. In ‘Ruby Mar’ she writes, “Uncle Bob used to tickle her / up under her chin and otherwise / on whiskey nights. Says she and Fanny June / would build forts with kitchen chairs / and Grammie’s starflower quilt, / crawl deep inside, lure the cat / with baloney, lie side-by-side, / lock fingers in pinky swear, / hearts crossed, hoped he’d die.”
She remembers her father in ‘Hank Williams’ Last Ride: “What might his life have been if he’d played honky-tonks / instead of signing up for a front row seat / in the Pacific Ocean Theater, / thick with “Japs” and dead brothers? / Or better still, if he’d not come home / with a metal plate in his head / and coal being the only means / to make a living wage in the mountains?”
After love, ache, loss and forgiveness, the book comes full circle and takes us first to ‘Bethal Ridge Cemetery’: “It’s the body that feels pain, / but the brain delivers it.”
“There must have been birds, / the noon-time smell of grass. / I can’t say. Feathered arias / and earthy balms are not meant for / a woman with a fist in each pocket.”
then to ‘The Day I Learn Her Diagnosis’: “... that once you painted a blank / canvas with your fear / unbuttoned. I have carried you / like a stone inside hope-emptied / pockets, like shame, like a word / I could not say out loud.”
“Oh, Mama, can you picture it? / Me on my knees, the moon / in a mad orange flare.”
These days it’s not often that poetry moves me to tears.
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fourth poetry collection, THE RAIN GIRL, was published by Chaffinch Press in 2020.
See more of her work at: