Volume 4 Fall '06

Overburden
          with lines from Milosz
Christina Lovin
 
We learn slowly, we humans:
overburdened with lessons
taught, forgotten, taught
again in the forgetting
until the lesson becomes mere memory
of diminishing returns:
 
it was the forest that was holding things
together, not the rock and soil
that we once thought,
just as skin with its many layers
bears the burden of the body
with its many layers and without
which the flailed flesh weeps and bleeds,
sinew fails, bones part and lean
to aspects of prayer, part
and fall to groveling, then dust.
 
Try putting the undone
body, felled and split,
back together:
shove the outside in
and try to give it life as if
those disparate parts belong..
 
There is a saying or there should be:
Treat the earth as you would your own
body
, for it is your own body:
nowhere less necessary, nowhere
less precious than the rest:
 
Tree. Stream. Stone. Steep. Least weed.
 
This is my body, broken for you:
 
Tree. Stream. Stone. Steep. Least weed:
Spring Beauty.  Fairy Bells.
Squaw Root Pennywort.
Vetch.  Thistle.
 
False Rue.
 
The migratory water thrush circles over
a plateau of waste gray as ash as if,
by this, she could find her way home

There is a saying or there should be:
…pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
to feed the dead who would come disguised as birds. 


 
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Oringally appearing in the anthology Missing Mountains:
We went to the moutaintop but it wasn't there
(Wind Publications), "Overburden" describes the undesirable materials that remain after coal mining. In the case of mountaintop removal mining, the overburden is dumped into adjacent valleys, then scraped level, leaving a bare,
uninhabitable plateau. 

 
* * *

Christina Lovin is the author of What We Burned for Warmth (Finishing Line Press).  Further publication credits include:  Harvard Summer Review, Diner, Hunger Mountain, The Bark, Missing Mountains, Coal: An Anthology, and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of several artists’ grants from the Kentucky Arts Council. 

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