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The Spirit of Man Goeth Upward

Research by Laura S. McKee, Berea Sound Fellow, regrading how WW-II era radio and personal histories have shaped the development of "From the Diary of Eve", a narrative series of poems set in Southern Appalachia.

Additional Poems by Laura McKee

The following poems were started during my time at Berea, and though they don’t directly respond to archival material, they were shaped by the overall research process and continue to develop Eve’s voice. “On Arrival” will begin Chapter Two, and describes, in part, the first moments of Eve and Patrick’s arrival at their Uncle Isaac’s farm in Kentucky. “Altar” will be located in Chapter One and is one of a series of poems that outline Eve’s relationship with the landscape as well as her growing restlessness and burgeoning spiritual struggle.

"On Arrival"

We were there. Amid the heat-razed azaleas,
wiping our sweat on our sleeves. We didn’t look back.
Home became small. A mustard seed or mote—
depending on our mood. On leaving. On it:
everything skimming a sea of inexacts. A buried mother,
for example, becomes everything at once:
your face in a fender’s chrome, a window at nightfall,
every breath in your body hers somehow. The weight
of every lungful doubled as if you were breathing
for you both. What they mean by grief. And there,
corvids circled above us, their coal-­blue feathers the color
of a river at night, where even the bit of light scratched
against its surface arrives from elsewhere.

"Altar"

Sometimes there is only
the night sky, the white face
of an owl turning to follow
potential prey until the feathers
are lost behind the leaves.
Not that I ever saw his face. Only
his voice. A cooing somewhere
behind the house. Truth is I
never saw him at all, though
I once startled one in the rafters
over a foaling mare who refused
to recline, to allow the thing
to happen and the owl nearly
cocking his head upside down
to make sense of the whole affair:
a crampy horse stomping the ground,
pawing dirt towards her as if
she could rearrange what follows,
as if she could refuse to split.
Above her, he shook his wings,
grandfatherly and perplexed and
flew away the moment she kneeled.
Eventually, the colt clamored out, a jangle
of wet limbs: its starless pupils blind
in the night air as he practiced
his first blinks, recognizing nothing
of the world. Here, the owl starts again:
a warning? I have never seen two
perched together. Alone they swoop
to unstitch the bodies of field mice, of
lesser, grounded beasts that never see
it coming, how their livers, hearts,
and spleens will orbit soon inside
another. Or maybe they know all along:
dread an organ among the redder planets
of the body. A song behind the house
you can never trace.