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from crab-grass (1931) Editors’ Note: Published in 1931 by the Art Print Shop, Trevecca College, in Nashville , Tennessee, West’s first collection of poetry is an undersized fifty-page limited edition hardback with a cover design by the artist Julius Lee Rayford. The book includes a foreword by Harry Harrison Kroll and an introduction by West’s fellow student, the writer Jesse Stuart. Dedication To My mother and father, Mountain woman and man Who dug crab-grass And sour-wood sprouts From between the corn rows With a goose-necked hoe While, as a baby, I lay On my back in a Deep-plowed furrow Kicking at the dirt, This humble volume of verse Is affectionately dedicated. Crab-Grass It wonders me whut fer Ye’r made, Crab-grass, 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 99 no lonesome road 100 Allus pesterin’ aroun’, In th’ corn down th’ creek An’ taters in th’ new-groun’, Crab-grass, Allus pesterin’ aroun’ . . . Did’n ye hear thet squrrul A-barkin’ Yan-side uv Still-House-Holler, Don’t ye know my ole houn’ dawg Ez ready fer to foller, An’ my rifle-gun ez-clean, Crab-grass, Allus pesterin’ aroun’ . . . Martha want let me see No peace, Crab-grass, while ye Cum a-peekin’ thru th’ corn An’ th’ sun-ball burns me so It’s a botherment I’m born, Crab-grass, Allus pesterin’ around’ . . . Bill Dalton’s Wife It shore wuz pitiful Th’ way Bill Dalton’s wife Lay up thar on Bull Creek An’ suffered out her life. Th’ granny-wumurn, from Over on Bad-Creek’s hed, Cum to tend th’ labor, An’ thar foun’ Lizzy ded. Th’ babe wuz crossed, Bill sed, The doctor wudn’t cum, Bill wuz powfly in debt An’ cudn’t pay th’ sum. 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 100 selected poems 101 Ole Kim Mulkey1 Might nigh ever new uv th’ moon Ole Kim Mulkey Got his nine lazy sons Out on Sassafras mountin A-grubbin’ up sassafras sprouts. “Git a-hustle on, sons, These sprouts’ul never grow Agin, if grubbed on Th’ new uv th’ moon,” Ole Kim wud say. But ole Kim’s sons Loved moonshine-licker An’ when ole Kim wuz gone, Horace, the youngest, brainiest, Biggest, an’ laziest Uv all Kim’s lazy sons, Stole down th’ creek To Lige Mealer’s still, With a long-handled Yaller gourd. When I Am Old To my class at Hindman, 1930–312 When I am old, gray days shall come, But my dreams shall ride into memory Where young voices laugh and play In springtime when the crocus creeps up. When I am old, I shall look back, Each rose-colored day a memory Gold-shot with columbine pink or blue, Rose-shot with corn-flower blue and sunset’s glow. 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 101 no lonesome road 102 When I am old, bright eyes of love Shall call me back to morning joys— Blue eyes, gray eyes, brown eyes, Eyes of little children shall call me back. When I am old, I shall laugh and live Like mountain azalia or arbutus, For one short season of memory Shot-through with the joy of living. Denmark On the North Sea3 Like a mocking phantom Your shores merge With the sea. I see the last of you blotted out In nothingness. But with you I have left something. That walks in the night-time Out where the corn-blades Sigh for the whispering song Of the winds, And Heather sobs For an unreturning voice. Mountain Reverie I shall foot it, Down Troublesome4 And up Trace,5 Where lean Hungry figures, Ghosts of mountain dwellers, Are known to wander . . . 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 102 selected poems 103 I think when Chilly winter comes And dusky night Brings trembling stillness To lonesome dwellings, My spirit shall stalk by Peering behind closed doors Of mountain homes, Where once I was A welcomed friend . . . And it may be They can hear me sing, Joining with the Sad music of Troublesome’s waters, Or playfully, with The rippling laughter Of the corn blades In the new-ground hill side Above the barn . . . Anyhow, I shall be there, Down Troublesome And up Trace In autumn When leaves are browned And fodder is pulled . . . Mountaineer’s Desire I...


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