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/ Two Poems

Two Poems

by Dane Ritter

And be-low

(for Clay County, KY)

A tire, three wheels

off a child’s

tricycle, ripped

jeans and hand-me-

down gray coats, dyed

a permanent brown. Stone-

washed hoodies, stones

from Ulysses Creek, misplaced

and longing for home. Mud. Two yards

of grandma’s yarn, empty spools

in the neighbor’s jam-packed

pool. Mason jars for pickling, for

jamming, jammed against a beat-up

Chevy four door, never bound

for the road again. Flood water. Then,

Mason’s left shoe. Mason’s right

shoe. A swing set from the school,

a weathered grave-marker

from the Bowling’s family cemetery

on high. No date left. Mud. And be-

low, a bud, two winged

leaves on a seedling, stretching

toward forgiveness that looks

like a gloved hand.


at the funeral home, we kiss

his cheeks, hold hands,

despite the chill that runs

down his dormant

spine into mine.

we lament this husk,

like the ravaged land

merely acres away. only,

this body is used, wasted,

& ours are not promised


the holler has years,

but ours dwindle

as i press my cheeks against

his warm sweat dripping

like a broken faucet,

summertime drizzle, marrying his

smile with my frown.

walking its length

which birthed me

unnatural & backwards,

baptized in coal slurry,

anything less than destruction

so let me wade. i am 21 today.

it’ll outlast us all,

as we flicker & flit.

Dane Ritter

About Dane Ritter

Dane Ritter (he/him/his) is an environmentalist and poet. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in the University of Kentucky’s Department of English, where he also received his MFA in Creative Writing. His research and poetry about Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian Region previously received the William Hugh Jansen and the James S. Brown Graduate Awards. His poetry, featured in several publications like The Cortland Review, Still: the Journal, and Flora Fiction, explores the environmental devastation of mountaintop removal often portrayed through a queer lens. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his family.

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.