Winter in Appalachia.

I dream of ripping a motorbike through the kudzuued backroads of Crozet, Virginia with little gas and two 5s in my pocket. I dream of finding a litter of wolf puppies with no mama in a cold barn and taking them to a lukewarm bus. Of walking a painted pony in Wyoming. Driving the bus with no brakes... A gun shot sound rips the wild imagination from the underside of my eyelids, breathing the hot hum of life and death over the red morning air. Winter in Appalachia is fried ham stuck to a rusty spatula. The kettle begins to boil on the high side of the wood stove, shaking out the tune of rice rattling in a clear mason jar. Such harsh sounds all cupped in the mad fist of the hollar wind bear the likeness of hair slam music invigorating even the coldest limb. January; the first grains of sand in a slow hour glass. The month signature smells make a second skin of your long johns and all physical contact feels like patting down a fresh pile of folded towels. I’m edging. My elbows are sharper than summer remembers and each knee is padded by bruises licked on ice and wet snow, making the attempt to run off this feeling restricting and limited. I try anyway. A blue tarp trails the stubborn mud behind me occasionally interrupting my determined steps with the ziiiiip of a dormant blackberry bush displaying its dominance. I get choosy with the kindling, weeding the slick from the sun bathed in an indistinguishable rhythm adding my music like steel steady sliding on track. Where can a mind wander in 20 degree weather? Heat rises. I look up at the black deer stand perched with its stubborn stare glaring down the valley and decide to climb. Something about the way the summer haze drives us to madness like The Stranger. This adrenaline needs to be sought out in the snow—no life without it. The execution time between thought and the inciting hands of curiosity need time to “warm up”, if you will. Two stick bundles later, I’m teetering five, seven, ten feet up into wonder. From here I can see the painted pony running and the wolves breaking into a desperate hunt. The motorbike is ringing in the distance moving away, away, away. The bus, well, I can certainly see the bus from here and the urge to fly home is the a half second from a split decision. There’s a treasure chest pounding, I can feel it in my fingers as they grip onto the thin metal seat. I can feel kerosene dripping down my temples and the moment this idea is realized by a feeling, the combination explodes into a candle-less glow, lighting the present in front of me. The pile of sticks is pathetic from this height. So is how I felt when I was down there. Each snipped stick glows so quick in the mouth of the iron beast. As does the poet sitting next to it, swirling its energy onto paper, taking her time with sequence, penning the page with a dangerous, familiar, winter solitude. What ample time we have to soak in white canvas...

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Katherine Dolan