Two Poems

Write Everything You Know on Yellow Paper

[audio link]

Trees of heaven prefer poor people
          and make good switches
                  for kids to fetch for themselves.

God allows boys to smoke,
        not girls, and sinners
                  use too much toilet paper. 

During a heroin crackdown, 
      Judy cooks up Paregoric in a skillet,
                  skin-pops, and loses her arm.

Slaves not burned alive
      went to the mountains
                  and that's why Haiti is. 

 Great questions are answered
      by blood and iron and the wolf moon
                              comes in January.


I Remember Coal

[audio link]

My grandpa used to rinse
his teeth with alcohol
and spit into the coal grate. 

My Hoosier mother
jumped at each explosion.
Sometimes she wondered

why she married these hills
but the creek ran clear
and the owls called at night. 

My uncle inherited the place,
let them strip mine. 
The water turned red.

The brim and suckers died. 
Junkies stole Uncle’s coal money
and he was buried without a cent. 

I left for a long time,
then came back,
worked for the welfare

visiting houses with grubby kids
on the porch and miners
inside wheezing and dying. 

Back then, coal companies
just turned our topsoil to rubble,
just polluted our steams.

—E. Gail Chandler, Shelbyville, KY