Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hills Are Not Silent

The hills are not silent
They do not sit mute
High up on the ridges
Wind whispers secrets
Of the ages to the pines.
Water babbles as is wanders
Slow at first downhill
Then sings a bubbling song
Finally shouting for joy
As it drops from waterfalls
To crisp pools below.
Deep within even the ancient
Rocks creak and moan
As they lift the world
On their shoulders.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stolen Heritage

Mountains destroyed
Hills laid low
Torn open to its heart.
Heart of the mountain
Ancient root of life
Precious black coal
Ripped from the depths
Broken and crushed
Moved, trucked and taken
From the hills of home
To power plants, factories
And homes distant
From our mountains.
The rubble, discard and ruins
Thrown down
Tumbled to the valley
Crushing and filling the hollers
With no thought
Of the beauty below
Or of ancestral homes.
Much less the sacred graves
Of those who ventured
As wayfarers
In a new land.
Appalachian pilgrims,
Pioneers forgotten.
Buried alongside
The primrose, sassafras
Honeysuckle, magnolia and sourwood.
All as if they were flowers
Forgotten at the grave
Cast off and buried
In the rubble
Of questionable progress.
Cry, Oh Appalachia
Weep oh hills and hollers.
Mourn what we have lost
Gnash your teeth
That we have allowed
To buy,
To steal our heritage
For the sake
Of coal.

copyright Stephen Hollen  July 10, 2008

Moonstruck Minnows

A full moon hangs heavy over the holler
So distant from highways and urban sprawl.
It is almost butter yellow up there,
Pushed deep into a purple velvet night.
Below, it pulls at the thick mists
That wrap round the skirt of the hills
Causing them to dance an' swirl
Like a gypsy woman dancin' for her lover.
Dancin' an swirlin' so intense
That plain mountain folks remember
Stories of them gypsy woman
Stealin' babies an castin spells.
The mist causes old wives tales
To swirl an' dance in their imaginations.

The moon reflects oddly
On the polished marble surfaces
Of monuments, memorials an' slick headstones
High on a ridge up yonder,
Overlookin' a small gatherin' of cabins.
Not enough homes coveyed up together to be a town
Or even a village, just a blink in the road.
Moon reflects briefly on a pop bottle,
RC cola bottle cast aside with no thought
Of redemption.

Pregnant moon reflects an' tugs
At an ancient creek
Wanderin' unbridled, unkempt
Through the silent holler.
Its gurgle and splash seems too loud
As folks nearby sleep on.
The moon reflects almost perfect like
On the surface of the creek,
Stuttered by an occasional ripple,
Interrupted here an' again
By the flick of a minnow's tail.

Reflected only briefly on their sides,
In the flash of dozens of minnows
Flickin' to the surface,
Flippin' like crazy
Crazy from the moon.
Moonstruck Minnows.

copyright Stephen Hollen 8/18/2008

Muddy Dreary Day

Rainy day, too warm day
Not frosty, cold December Day
No fluffy snowy day
Muddy, dreary December Day
Windy, cloud pushy sort of day.
Not a winter sort of day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wet Dog Day

It is a dark and dampy, misty morning
A smelly wet dog, flea bitten day
Thunder cracker-boomer-banger
Rumble an' grumbly sort of start
Snuggle buggle under quilts an' covers
Hide your head an' roll right over day
A day for fires burnin' slow like,
Woodstoves cherry reddish kinda morn.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Awaiting the Dawn

Those who love the dawn rise up early
Quietly slipping out of bed to dress quickly
Stepping down old stairs one by one
That one spot, comfortable and warm
Waits for us, inviting us to sit and watch
The spectacle of night giving way to day.
Sometimes our hands grip mug or china cup
Full of coffee, tea, warming hands and body
As the beginning of a new day warms the earth.
It is dark just now, still a few stars in the night sky
Yet soon, very soon the eastern sky will shimmer
Just hints of pink at first, then reds, oranges will filter in
And creation will replay that first day
When God stepped out into the darkness, looked around
Threw out a multitude of suns that rolled through the Heavens
Bumping and careening through creation, finding just the spot
Settling in and beginning to spin, throwing off sparks
Warming and glowing, bringing life and waiting, waiting
Till God, that Master Painter grins, lifts hand to a canvas of nothing
And speaks soft and low, not wanting to take all the glory
Gently, He spins that big old ball of gasses we await
"Let there be light."  And it was so.

So, we sit and wait, patiently.
Warm in the darkness, content,
For the first glimpse of morning on the horizon
For the first glimpse of dawn.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gravy Thick Dawn

Dawn and fog is gravy thick
Not merely a misty morn.
It lays heavy, damp and leaden
Weighing down on leaf and tree
Making spirits sulky, sad.
One wonders if the sun
Will be able to push, cut, tear
Through and bring today?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last Day of Summer

The last morning of summer began slow
Mist wrapped around street lights
Making an early morning haze.
Birds seemed a bit slower to wake
Less anxious to start singing their wake up tunes
Down the road a lonely dog barks once, twice
Then decides this last summer day is a good day
A great day to circle once, twice, three times
And settle back into the cool grass for a nap.
Coffee brewed just like any other day
But folks up early to start a day of farmin'
Looked out the windows and stood
Thinkin' of harvest and crops needin' in.
Last day of summer is a good day
Last day of summer is to be savored
Take a sip and see... mmm sure was good.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Do you remember?
Where you were
Who stood by your side?
When the news came
When you first saw the horror?

It is an image
That is seared
Into the backs of my eyes
Burned into my brain.

Images that will never fade
Shock that doesn't ease
The sight of men, women
Jumping to their death
Can you imagine
A situation
When that is the best option?

Copyright 9/11/2006 Stephen Hollen

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dank Dawn

It is a dank and misty dawn
A morning that stirs up
Stories of ghosts and spooks
And headless horsemen.
A drippy, wet morning
Full of damp dog smells
And distant hints of wood smoke.
Coughs and fits sound thin
From an ancient rooster
Somewhere up a holler.
Along the dirt roads
Standin' under the umbrella
Of protective trees
Or in a tin roofed shelter,
Teenagers grin in the dark
As they haunt little fellers
With stories of haints
Monsters and bumpitty sounds
In the dark.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Morning at the Gilbert place

Del Gilbert woke easily, well before the sun was up.  Her husband, Billy would be up soon.  He patted her shoulder as she rolled to the edge of their bed and sat up.  Most mornings he would lay in bed and spend a few moments in quiet prayer as he prepared for his day.  His day would start fast and go steady till their noon meal.  He would be back in the fields soon after and would finally stumble in, dog tired just before dark to eat a bite, sip on some iced tea on the porch and listen to the radio till bed time.  Most folks called him "Uncle Billy" and he was what folks call "a good ol' boy".

There was a pretty good chance that one or more neighbor would wander by and stop for some sweet tea and conversation in the early evenin' hours.  Though their home was off the beaten path and at the end of a road that wandered deep into a holler, it sometimes seemed like Grand Central Station to Del.

 Del quickly made biscuits and pushed the pan into the oven.  Bacon and ham soon fell into a fryin' pan and the little cabin tucked into the holler was smellin' wonderful.  Grits bubbled and steamed on the back burner right beside a little pan filled with warm water in which she put a quart jar of maple syrup to warm.  Billy liked maple syrup in his grits and his own sourwood honey on his biscuits.

Five bee gums (hives for the Yankee folks) sat a little further back in the holler and were just about ready to be robbed of the season's bounty of sourwood honey.  The sourwood trees had been just beautiful this year with all the rain.  Their limbs had hung low, laden with white, fragrant flowers that they could smell from their front porch... or anywhere else in their humble cabin when the windows were open.

The bees worked those trees steady for weeks.  Their buzzin' created a hum around the trees that was magical.  It seemed like the whole hillside was alive an' singin' glory an' hallelujahs to the Good Lord above when the Sourwoods were bloomin'.  Del often took a chair out close to the trees on a nice day and sat in the shade, listenin' to that hum as she pieced quilts or peeled taters for dinner.

The biscuits came out of the oven and Del cracked eggs into a little pan shined up with just a dab of bacon grease... made the eggs taste good an made her cleanin' the pan easier with a slick of grease in the bottom.  Billy ate two and she had one, all over easy.  Since her layin' hens were goin' great guns, she fried up a few more.  Maybe Billy would want another for breakfast.  Maybe he would put a cold fried egg on his plate for dinner.  Maybe one of the neighbors would stop for coffee and have a biscuit stuffed with a fried egg to gossip over.

"Better come on, ol' man.  This breakfast is coolin' quick an' I am 'bout ready to toss it out for the dogs" she called.

"I hear ye. I hear ye.  A feller cain't even get his boots laced 'round here.  You threaten me every day with throwin' my breakfast to the dogs.  It ain't happened in 48 years and I don't reckon you'll start now." Billy chuckled.

Del grinned and sat the plate of eggs on the table.  She wiped her hands on the dish towel that hung on her shoulder, folded it and laid it by the sink.  Billy and Del sat, joined hands and bowed their heads.

"Now Lord, we ain't got much to brag about.  What we got is from You and we are humbled by the bounty of this little patch of ground you have given us here in this holler.  We don't rightly know what we have done to deserve all we have been blessed with, don't reckon our blessin's come from what we deserve, but what You grace us with.  For that and for this table we give You thanks, Lord.  Watch over us and them we love this day.  Bless our country, our President, them that govern and us that live free.  Be with the boys that guard and protect in the Armed Forces.  Bless the Governor of Kentucky and those folks we have elected to guide our state, the local folks.  Lord, give 'em some wisdom... give them government folks a lot of wisdom, Lord.  I just don't know about them folks sometimes.  Get 'em off their high horses an' back down to earth." Billy prays.

Del squeezes Billy's hand and he chuckles; "Sorry I went on so, Lord.  Help us as we go about our work today.  Help us to be humble and to know You are God.  Thanks for your son, Jesus.  I'm prayin' all this in His Mighty name.  Amen."

They squeeze each others hand, Billy leans over, as he does every day and kisses Del.  This is a custom he started their first day of marriage as Del sat cryin' over burned biscuits an' crispy eggs.  He leaned over that mornin', kissed her, told her every thing looked wonderful and ate every bite.  From that day till this he would kiss her before his first bite.

Breakfast is soon over.  Billy grabs the bowl of scraps Del has prepared and crumbles a biscuit into the bowl. He is out the back door and into the barn to begin his day.  Del sits back down an' pours a cup of coffee.  Them dishes ain't goin' nowhere.  She listens as Billy calls his ol' Sooner dog.  Sooner has been sleepin' under the front porch but soon is up, has a good shake and trots - side aways over to eat his breakfast as Billy throws cracked corn to the chickens.

Sooner will follow Billy from chore to chore all day long.  When Billy begins to work, Sooner will go round and round a few time and drop like he was dead to the ground... one eye openin' occasionally to make sure Billy is there.  At noon, man and dog will head back to the house.

That's the way it happens most days.  It is a simple life, a good life.  It is, as they know, a blessed life.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sizzling Dawn

Still dark and even the birds are snuggled in
Heads down close to their breasts
Little beaks open, panting in their sleep.
The heat of yesterday still lingers, waiting
Till sunrise fuels the beginning of a new day.
Grasses barely damp with morning dew
That too soon dried and is gone.
Mists linger high up in the hills
Like genteel ladies with skirts held high
Not daring to step down into the hollers.
Old mule sleeps and stirs, shakes a weary head
He stuck outside the window of a hot and stuffy barn.
Tin roofs ping in the night once, twice, again
Warping and shifting as they cool.
Sneaky old cat found its way to the root cellar
Cooling off and waiting for a sneaky mouse.
Old dog retreated early to his spot
Deep yonder under the house.
Big Ben alarm clock jangles and rings
A moan, a groan, a hand slaps the clock
Sizzling hot summer morning
No relief in sight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lilac Perfume

The morning struggles to roll across the horizon
Slowed by thick mist that still rolls around the hollers
The mist seems to hold the fragrance
Of lilacs down the road just a piece
Almost as if Spring is a beautiful woman
Standing at the world's perfume counter
And spraying Lilac Parfum on her wrists
Behind each delicate ear.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Celebration of a Quiet Life

Go with me to the mountains, deep in the mountains, the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky.  I'll take you there, to a holler with a creek runnin' through called Flat Creek.  Look around with me and find the highest place.  Though these old mountains were worn before men ever walked the hills, help me find the highest one.  Please be patient and climb that hill along side me.  Come on, I'll take you there.

Stand quiet now.  Breath in deep and smell the honeysuckle, the cedar and pine.  Breathe deep again and catch the thick sweet smell of sourwood bloomin' down below.  When the wind blows up the hill just right the fragrance is so amazin'.  Listen and you can hear the honeybees workin' the sourwood blossoms.

Look around, look down into the hollers at the old rugged cabins, so many deserted now.  Close your eyes and go back with me, nearly 87 years.  Come with me, I'll take you there.  Down yonder, just there, the cabin is gone now, but back then, a simple log cabin stood there, just a plain ol' mountain cabin with a dirt floor was there in that clear spot, there, just there, do you see?

The youngin's have been sent down the road to Aunt Dellie's for a while.  The midwife came just a while ago on an old red mule.  Grandpa Steve Hollen brushes down the old mule just to have something.  Till there comes a cry...

As I close my eyes, I imagine it was something like that, when my Daddy was born.  No one noticed much, beside family.  He was never a rich man, never bragged on himself, never made headlines.  He lived a simple and quiet life.

Today, seven years after his passin', I celebrate his quiet life.  In so many ways I am not like him, can never fill his shoes, but I am so much of him.  So much of who I am is due to that quiet life.

He wasn't able to finish school... went to war instead.  Sailor, Seabee, yet he never talked about those war years.  I just don't know about those years.

Home again, he found work, as many did, in a factory and worked as much as he could to support a wife and five years after their marriage, one son, then another.

I'm told when I would cry (and he had been out with cousins and friends) more than once he climbed into my crib and laid with me... I can only imagine.  When I had colic he and my Mom would get in the car nightly and drive around till I fell asleep.

I remember when Daddy and Mom came home with Brother Mike.  Daddy walked in the side door holding my little brother so very careful, his quiet smile so big, so proud he had two boys.  He had a gold tooth back then, said he got it while he was in the Navy.  It showed through when he grinned.  I wanted a gold tooth back then.

When I was 8, his life changed as he walked a church aisle, accepted Jesus as Lord and quietly served his God.  A few months later I followed his path down that same aisle.  In March of 1963, Daddy and I stepped into a chilly baptistry together. I was baptized first, then Daddy was baptized.  Oh my it was cold!  (Don't forget Baptists immerse completely... and the water heater was new and not connected yet on that cold March Sunday)

One by one, cousin, sister, old friends and family followed Daddy down that aisle.  Not because he was an evangelist, preacher or prophet.  He never proselytized.  He just lived a quiet life, a life changed to make him a better man.  He was happy and content.  They saw how he lived and, like me, I reckon they wanted some of what he found.

When Brother Mike and I had kids our quiet Daddy changed again.  For two ornery sons he often was stern.  He could just look at us and we would settle down.  But when the grand-babies  took hold of Pappy he was sweet and gentle.  He walked and rocked them in his arms, sang to them, looked deep into their souls and loved them as only a Grandpa can.

My Kelly would sit with him in his recliner and together them would watch cartoons for hours.  She claimed he loved watching the Smurfs... yet I remember the crossword book in his hands each time they sat watching cartoons.

I can still see them together, Pappy and Kelly watching cartoons, Pooh Bear safe in her arms.

Then cancer took him in just 41 days.  Oh my, just not enough time to say all I wanted to say.  Daddy never talked much, wasn't much on verbal expressions of love.  He lived a quiet life.  Most times through my life when I would say, "I love you Daddy", he would say, "Same here".  That was always enough, we knew he just found it hard to express himself like that.

Instead he worked hard, lived that quiet life, provided for us, quietly loved us, showed us how to live.

Yet in those 41 days, every time we said "I love you" he would say "I love you too".  As he hurt, as he suffered he told us each time that he loved us.  What a great man he was, what a great Daddy.

Today I celebrate the quiet, exemplary life of Jimmie Hollen, born 12/17/1924, died 5/15/2004.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Lessons Learned on the Cabin Porch

Lesson One: The Purpose of a Porch

This is a lament for the loss of the front porch.  Not that they are no longer built, but that they are no longer used.  Folks build decks or patios these days.  Some might add on a front porch, or pretend with a "stoop".  Folks huddle inside to keep warm in the winter and air conditioned cool in the summer, forgetting the multiple benefits of the front porch.

The front porch, in the days of glory for all front porches, was the shaded spot to relax after supper, to sip coffee on Sunday with the Preacher (and his wife!), to watch folks go by and discuss the goin's on around the area.

It might have sounded something like this; "Well, I swan, here comes Homer Wagers in his new truck.  ain't new, 'course.  I heard Homer went to the bank an' got a loan for that truck.  Law-zee, can you imagine?  Gettin' into debt an' owin' the bank for somethin' such as a truck.  Next thing you know they will come an' take his truck an' his house an' where will Emmerline an' his none youngin's go?  Probably end up in Ohio or even worse, Michigan workin' in them factories, don't ya know."

(As the truck pulls up and stops) Well, howdy Homer, Emmerline.  We didn't know that was you drivin' along in that fine fancy truck!  It cain't be more than two years old!  What? four years old?  I swan, it don't look it.  Been taken good care of, it has.

Y'all hear 'bout Charlie Clark?  He 'bout got et up by a groundhog he pulled out of its hole.  He needs to quit that silliness.  Gropin' for groundhogs.  That is plumb nonsense.  Gropin' for catfish is one thing, groundhogs is another.

Y'all come on up and sit a spell.  No?  Well, drive that new truck back when you can visit longer"

(As the truck with Homer and Emmerline drives off) "Did you think they was actin' uppity?  Give a hillbilly a new truck an' he thinks he is the king of the hills.  Hmmph.  I knew him when he was a stealin' chickens to feed his family."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morning Star

Morning star
Along the
Of my

Friday, April 22, 2011

Little Drips of Water

A little girl sits up front in the big girl seat
Holding her Daddy's hand as he drives
Smiling and happy as she travels to school
Dressed as always in her blue and white dress
Uniform for the day, little room for expression
The rain outside doesn't bother her,
Safe and warm beside her Daddy.
Wipers back and forth become a metronome
Creating a beat as she nods her head
Back and forth, back and forth
Her little hand reaches and her fingers
Trace the drops of rain on the window
She looks out, content, unaware of any care
And she sings to herself a song
Written and composed by her alone
Wipers keeping time as she serenades
Her approving audience of one...
It really doesn't matter, though
For she sings really for herself, quietly
"Little drips of water, little drips of water
Little drips of water..."
And her Daddy wishes that ride
Could go on forever.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Life Cries Out

She sits and stares at the emptiness of her life
Drowning in self pity and self absorption
Unaware that just beyond the porch,
Only feet from her blind anger
Life dances and celebrates in the dust
Kicks cans and shouts "huzzah!"
As the world continues to send invitations
Slipped through the mail slot
Laying on the floor of her depression
Invitations that beg her to come outside
Leave the emptiness for even just a moment
And take a wary step into life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Whistle Pig

Groundhog snuffles and hunts
Sneaks through the undergrowth
Searching for tasty morsels
Bugs and roots and worms
Head raises up, listens
Whistles a warning
Is gone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thunder drums

Thunderstorm marches round the hills
Beating on his big, deep drum
Shaking the windows
Rattling the dishes and what nots
As old ladies fret over them
And their little dogs howl.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dogwood Winter

Dogwood Winter
Rain frozen on the porch
The woodstove cold
Weather unexpected
Morning frost unplanned
Three A.M. bounce
Out of bed
Quilt grabbed
Thrown on top
Burrow under deep
Cuddle in the covers
Warm, warm quilty mornin'
Till feet hit frosty floors.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Adieu, not goodbye

Travelin' home from the hills is a sorrowful thing
Closin' up the little cabin tight an' snug
Walkin' through and makin' sure all is well.
Coverin' old iron beds with sheets
Checkin' windows an pausin'
Lookin' out the back at a salt block
Wonderin' if I waited for a moment more
Just maybe that little gray doe
Would wander in to lick
Just one more lick before I go.
Door tight, electric off
Close and lock the gate
And gone.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Property Line

Walking the line
Hash mark hash mark
Searchin' for the next mark
Hash mark hash mark
Standin' quiet as a deer
Young buck full o' self
Kicks through old leaves
Nosin' the ground
Searchin' for acorns
Tom turkey gobbles
Little buck raises his head
We both move on
Searchin' for acorns
Kickin an' nosin' round
Searchin' for the next mark
Hash mark hash mark

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cruel Tunes

Simple cabin in the hills
Dwarfed by red Oak trees
Becomes the subject
Of their scorn
They mock and play
Tunes on her tin roof
Dropping acorns

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Final Goodbye

I stood in line
Waiting to condole
Smiles broke out
When folks saw
Her wedding picture
Black and white
Honeymoon happiness
Husband stands
Dutifully at the head
Of her silver bed
Final bed
Final rest
For her weary body
Soon he will join her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Furious Rains

A furious Spring rain rose up high
Passing slowly over the hills and hollers
Skirts so full that she dumps water
Over a not so thirsty landscape.
Dry branches come to life
Regurgitating rainwater down the hollers
Spitting and sputtering springs
Cry out, "No more, no more".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Junk Food Junkie

Junk food junkie cravin' for a fix
Peanut butter, popcorn, Luck Charms and Trix
Sing a song of sugar, marshmallow filled with air
I want some chocolate, not an apple or a pear.
Coco Puffs and Chocula, Pop Tarts too
Gimme some candy, all filled with goo.
Clark Bar, Baby Ruth, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
Dove Bars, Fudgecicles, and sherbert pop ups
Sing a song of chocolate, milky, dark and sweet
Hersheys Bars, Raisinettes, always good to eat
Butterfinger, Payday and chewy Tootsie Roll
Thin Mints, Almond Joy, chocolate chips they take a toll
Jaw breakers, Fireballs, Fizzies, Hot Tamales
I gained 5 pounds, by golly!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Late Night Dreams

I dreamed last night of many things
Strange images filled my head
I dreamed I had Angel wings
And that snakes danced round my bed
I dreamed of sitting way up a hill
Watching the world pass down below
Then a change, a rush, a thrill
In my dream it began to snow
I was a panther on the prowl
Pacing so quiet through the night
Another change, I take wing, a hawk, perhaps an owl
Patient, silent, I circle, soar, waiting for first light.

Dark Morning

Dark and muggy morning
Storm pushing its way
Through the dawn
Pushing away yesterday
Dampening down the birdsong
Throws a dark opacity
Over the eastern sky
As Sunrise struggles
To light the day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


The sun hung pregnant heavy
Over the Tennessee mountains
Popsicle orange
In a sky that was so blue
It hurt to look away.

Along the side
Of the busy road
Folks sat on porches
Fanning themselves
Not wantin' to go in
To cold conditioned air
Just yet.

A doe pants slowly
As travelers hurl by
With windows rolled
Radios blaring
Speakers thumpin'
To the glorious day
The Creator had made
Just for them

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ages of Man

While the old man sits and rocks, thinking, dwelling
On what was, what might have been,
Considering the paths he should have, might have, could have
Taken through a long, wandering life,
He dreams of loves lost, of battles fought
Of happier times, of meaningful moments.
He knows full well there are more days
Behind this day, stacked up, piled up
In his sputtering memory
Than there are ahead for him.

A young man walks, not looking yet
For a path or trail, not considering where
Foot may fall, or which road is taken.
His mind wanders over things he will do
Hopes and dreams, goals and "gimmees"
Wants, desires, lusts, laundry lists of things
Fill his rumbling, tumbling, busy mind.

Baby boys sits up,
Falls over, rolls over
Lifts foot high in the air
And contemplates his big toe.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Watcher

Old, feeling ancient,
He sits on his porch
Rests on his porch swing
Grizzled brown mountain cur
Curled up by his side.
Weary, bleary, rheumy
Eyes fixed on the road.

Watching, patiently waiting
Sitting so quiet, so very still

The soft, rythmic snoring
Of his worn little dog
Is the only sound to hear.
Way down yonder,
Far piece down the road
The sound of an engine
The dust rising from the road
Beat up old Ford truck
Shakes, rattles, rolls
Comes closer, closer
Slow, passes by.
Old man, most ancient
Throws up a hand
Driver responds
Nod, touch of the hat.
Truck rumbles and gone.

Old, feeling ancient,
He sits on his porch
Rests on his porch swing
Grizzled brown mountain cur
Curled up by his side.

Weary, bleary, rheumy
Eyes fixed on the road.               Watching, patiently waiting

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Finger painted morning

Birds sing their simple morning songs
Peepers shrug off the chilled dawn
Joining the chorus with their songs
Of bog bound love and loneliness.
In the trees squirrels are just awake
And rubbing a tiny paw on sleepy eyes.
A weary ol' mama possum walks along,weary
Looking for breakfast, digging through
Thick leavings from Autumn and Winter.
Serving as omnibus for six tiny youngin's
Clingin' to her back, holdin' on tight
Tooth and jaw clamped to mama
Like rat ugly hair clips.
Yet above all the hustle, the frenzy
The bustle, the busy, frenetic
The cheeping, the peeping, tweet tweeting
And croaking, harumphing, coo cooing
Conk honking, qua-quacking, whee wheeting
Of morn...
Above all the caught up-ness, the mating
The eating, the cleaning, the seeking
The business of dawn
God is slowly painting the horizon
Once more with the finger paints of creation

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dogs, they am happy

Dogs, they am happy
Wiggle all over.
Dogs they am happy,
Glad to be seen.
Skin loose an jiggly
Ears just right floppy
Tail it am thumpin'
Come on now,
Let's eat.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bird Songs

Early, early, damp, dark morning
Whispers of sunrise, glimpses of dawn
Six in the morning, rising for coffee
Smelling the bacon, hear the sizzle of eggs
Birdsong is rising, hinting near the horizon
Flying ahead and heralding morn.
Whistles and tweets and "tum tum tum twee twee
Arise and be joyful, take to your wings.
Join us in singing, fly up now skyward
Morning is coming, come, let us sing."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Deep Place

What is that deep place the soul goes
Saddened and lonely, hurt and hungry
Digging, burrowing so deep, so low
Blind, angry and deaf to the joy
Not hearing or seeing tomorrow
Sleepless, yet so sleepy
Seeking respite, relief, comfort and care.
Broken and wounded, sick and confused.
Can't and won't look around
Building a prison, rock and stone
Rock of rejection, stone of sadness
Erecting and edifice of pain and regret.
Monument to madness
Pylons of pain and suffering.
Bowed and broken by self pity.
Alone, alone, his choice is

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Timeless Melody

Little boy
Thinks he is
Beats and thumps
On his bare belly
And sings
Whacka whacka
Doobie dooo.
Eternal youth
Timeless melody

Saturday, April 02, 2011

song of the road

Traveled down home not so very long ago,
Hungry for the hills, hankerin' for the homeplace.
Each mile driven a bit closer, nearer home
The sound of the wheels on the highway
The tuneless hum of rubber and road
Sings in my ears, whispers a melody

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cruel Cold Season

Run little spring,
Run away and hide now
Every day Old Man Winter,
Cruel, cold season
Paces by your side
Crushing, withering life
From catkin, sprout and bud.
Counting his days,
Clinging, holding on.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Waiting In The Wings

Though there is frost heavy
On each window as I gaze
Into the darkness
I am comforted by stars
Brilliant in a deep purple sky.
A stingy sliver, half circle of silver
Hangs low on the horizon.
Just enough illumination
To back light contrails
Straight lines in the early hours
Playing tic tac toe in the atmosphere.
Even now I smile at the promise
Of a newborn morning
As the ever circling sun
Throws shy hints over the horizon...
Pinks and ruddy oranges
A thoughtful hint of red
Serves as backdrop
To the dark and twiggy
Outline of trees in the distance.
Like a shy little mountain gal
Pushed onto a church stage
To sing for the first time,
Morning is on tippy toes
Peeking over the edge of the world
Ready to step out and sing...
Morning has broken.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hungry Dawn

It is a wonderful fall morning here.  It makes me want to be in the hills so bad.  If I were, I would wake you and tell you to dress quickly.  I would get a flashlight and quickly, quietly lead you deep into the woods, quickly to a hillside where we could sit and just wait.

Perhaps we would talk quietly, but mostly we would sit silently as the woods woke up.  It is a glorious thing.  The little birds wake first, noisy and hungry they flit from tree to bush, singing quietly and talking to each other in a ritual that happens every day of the year.

Squirrels seem to be the next to arise.  They come quickly down the trees and bounce from place to place through the fallen leaves.  Sometime they make me think it is a deer as they run and then hesitate.  Often they scold and fuss as they search for that hidden acorn they put away days before.

As we sat it would warm up, but you would shiver as the cold seeped in.  The joy of seeing a doe walk silently through the woods would make you forget you were cold.  The awe of seeing a 10 point buck slink by, nose to the ground, following the scent of the doe, mind on nothing but the doe will enthrall you.  We will giggle like children as we realize he walked so close we could have reached out and touched him, yet he was so enamored he never knew.

We would sit for ever so long as the sun rose over the shoulders of the eastern hills, unwilling to give up our seats for the concert of the holler below, the theater of life that was playin' out below us.

Finally we would walk quietly back, talking now and again, unwilling to break the somber, thankful mood we were in.  Back at the cabin, breakfast would be ready, Aunt Mag and Bess would be fussin' over eggs and table arrangements.  Platters would be piled high with cat head biscuits, fried ham, sausage meat and bacon.  Gravy would smell lovely and call for us to pour it over a huge bakin' powder biscuit.  Homemade jellies an' sourwood honey would sparkle in mason jars, just waitin' to be swiped on one of them biscuits.  Then Uncle Bill would pour boilin' water from a kettle into a washbasin...temper it off with cold water, just drawn from the deep well in the front yard.  We would laugh and chatter as we scrubbed our hands and dried them on a towel worn thin with scotch thriftiness.

As we sat we would bow our heads, give thanks for the beauty of the dawn we shared and eat.  Yes, buddy, we would eat!

Stephen Hollen   copyright 10/12/2007

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mountain's Heart

Heart of the mountain
Soul of the hills
Ripped from the deepest places
Sacred, precious... valuable.
The Company doesn't care
About the heart or soul.

Heart of the Mountain
Only the black coal
Bought and sold.
Hauled away in truckloads
Hauled away with no care
Hauling precious souls
Draggin' the dead behind
Long trains to the north.

Heart of the mountains
Hauled away in carloads
Draggin' the dead behind
Burned in the smelters
Furnaces, engines, converters
To give light, steel, transportation
To those who mock
The mountains.

Weep, Weep, heart of the Mountains.

copyright 5/4/2006 Stephen Hollen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fly Away Wings

Deep in the mountains, past the asphalt roads
Goin' up a holler is a narrow dirt road, yellow dirt
Fine an' grainy dirt that turns to dust easily
Turns to sticky, nasty ol' mud even quicker.
Old road was maybe a pioneer wagon trail
Maybe just an ol' cow path some weary
And unlucky traveler followed one lonesome day.
Nondescript trees an' scrubby brush line the road
Blockin' you in as your travel slowly to avoid the ruts
Keepin' your eyes ahead careful to stay to one side
Or the other side of the deep ruts which are the only evidence
Anyone has ever traveled the lane before you.
Drive on back the road an' cross a creek
Sick, yellow an' red from coal mine runoff.
That yellow dust coats and grabs on every wet surface now,
Evidence to the world that you traveled that weary road.
Then, just as you are lookin' to find a wide spot to turn
Up on the hillside, to your right a cabin sits tilted
Leanin' into the mountain as if to rest.
On the porch is a little ol' girl, thin an' cautious
Looking at you, wonderin' who you are
Wonderin' why you are sittin' there in your car.
Carefully she smiles and bashfully waves at you.
You smile and lift your hand to wave back
Then she turns to open the ragged screen door
And runs quickly inside to hide and watch you.
Slowly you turn in the wide spot, the yard
As you leave the little gal steps back out
And though she thinks you won't even notice,
She waves again, as if she would travel with you
To places she has only dreamed of.
As you drive back home you smile more than once
Remembering a little ol' girl, thin and cautious
In a threadbare dress, no shoes who waved
From a porch up a holler on a deep rutted road
And not till you turned and started to leave did your notice
She had a magic wand made of a twig of apple wood
And carefully strapped to her back with old baling twine
Made of cardboard and duct tape... she wore wings.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tears of Winter

Winter holds my world
Tight in her snowy fist.
She laughs at me through
Icicle teeth and frostbitten lips.
Now and again her grip
Loosens for just a moment
When skies go blue.
The sun wobbles out
Yellow and punkin orange.
A hint of green peeks through
Grasses alive and eternal green.
She is angered and hurt
Her tears fall to the ground
As wet and sodden snowflakes.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Old photograph

I sit in wonder
And look at me
A picture of me
A world ago
More than a lifetime
It almost seems.
I sit and wander
Back through memories
Some just shadows
And I wonder
Did I do his hopes
His dreams and plans
Would he forgive
Me for his failings
Would we laugh at
Our shared shortcomings?
Or would he look
Across time
And wonder who I was?