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Clifton I

We stood there
me, him, regret
crowding the edge of the road
same nose
same hands
same nervous smile
in a civil rights era
divorce war

stood in the mud
in the sane
pretending to be father and son
shadow and tree
finger and thumb
avoiding each other’s eyes
biting bottom lips
hoping we left our pain
in the city

staring at the edge of his unlit cigarette
I search for answers
I wait for clarity
and or flames
hidden among the lessons
in the stories
he pulls from his pockets
like peppermint candy
covered with lint

we wander through
the family resting place
at the rear of the church
on a crooked hill
just beyond the old outhouse, a two-seater
searching for his grandmother’s
among the Trumbos
and rows of soldiers

nodding at a gravel road
made more visible
through naked winter trees
and a spot opposite
the old schoolhouse
at the edge of the cliff
he said
‘papa george’s daddy died right about there’
‘a runaway team a horses
missed the turn
and plunged over the cliff’
‘his head musta hit a treee
on the way down’

peering out over the water
he mused about
a giant black dolphin of a man
who used to swim up and down the river
on his back
face up like a log
said he could swim that good

he took me to his favorite spont
to where he played as a boy
where clark’s run
empties into herrington lake
in a ceremonious succession
of slate and limestone steps
that both walked and crawled
the descending one hundred yards
free falling like a Caribbean mountain
ten feet at a time
before splashes
softened into ripples
then drowned

we walked the land
then stood there
in the mud
crowding the road
family history clinging
to our souls
his stories
floating in the air
like vapor photographs

we stood
at the edge of the road
in Clifton
looking out at the
wide wet mirror
that divided
one county from the next
absence from forgiveness
then spoke and laughed
in unison
like twins
like a small choir
singing psalms



Frank X Walker's book available on


Affrilachia Cover

Paperback: 112 pages ;
Publisher: Old Cove Press;
(March 1, 2000)

"Finally, a gathering of words that fiercely speaks to what it truly means to grow up African-American in Appalachia. These are not stories of those of us transplanted conveniently into the territory for whatever reason. These poem-stories are from a native Affrilachian heart, more specifically, from the man who first created the word in order to define and not be rendered invisible.

Nikky Finney, author of Rice


View a video clip of Frank X Walker reading "Kentucke" (requires Quicktime)


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