Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Elliott Reivers

Fortiter Et Recte (Boldly and Rightly)


Fighters from generation to next

Serving no King

Guardians to the bloodiest valley in Britain.

History remembers them as 

Trouble-making nuisances

Border-hopping thieves.

Thoroughly cursed by a thousand words,

excommunicated by Archbishop Gavin Dunbar.

His proclamation never lifted,

carved in stone in Carlisle.


That blood runs in my veins.

According to my mother

who took me to Highland Festivals in Deep Creek Lake

and tried to convince me to play the bagpipes

but was content when I took up the tin whistle.

She told me the Scots loved West Virginia. 

The mountains reminded them of home,

so they made a new one in our hills and hollers.

I didn’t believe until 23 & Me 

confirmed she was right--their blood runs in my veins. 


Grandma Elliott, good mountain stock,

played piano, guitar, dulcimer, and fiddle.

She was strong enough to survive 

the sudden death of her first husband,

kept the farm running while raising four kids

without running water or heat.

But ancestry doesn’t build character, right?

Yet when I look at my father, 

from whom I get my dark hair and brown eyes

my stubbornness and work ethic

my rebellious streak…

I cannot deny

that his blood runs in my veins.

Digging in dirt for roots makes my hands dirty.

Fill my blood with

Strength, boldly and rightly,

and a fighter’s spirit

Monongahela River’s morning mist

Wind from Cheat Mountain

Cathedral's deep wooded silence

A touch of mischief

Creativity and intelligence


My blood runs in my veins. 

-Melissa Reynolds

How Much Do Tired Eyes Really See?

Should I press flat into the floor?

Should the weight of my head be so much? 

Too much for neck? Too much for shoulders? 

Dry earth cracks and crumbles 

so does dry skin. 

Black claws on edge of vision 

no shape of monster 

tailbone crack pop shift 

Growing out of the cage, 

through the gaps and holes, 

but the center stays inside 

-Melissa Reynolds

Writing The Body

My body has 

starved for love 

starved for control 

starved for sadness 

then bounced back fifty pounds more 

my back pressed on the driveway to watch stars 

my smoke-filled lungs by bonfires      backyard fires    trash fires

my legs tingle with the cold of Leadmine stream 

my tense shoulders bare above white dress

my stomach remembers

hands and feet pressing against the back side of my skin

  it reminds me every time I eat 

I have yet to trace lines on my face without sadness in my fingertips

-Melissa Reynolds

The Day The Aurora High School Burned Down

midnight sweat 

midnight vomit 

crying and clutching the trash can

no school for me

mother’s blanket-wrapped sadness 

predawn on the front porch

watching the school burn 

four fire departments couldn’t stop the blaze 

what could a woman in a blanket hope to do 

that they couldn’t?

“good news,” she whispers

smoothing back my tangled hair

wiping the fever away with a cool cloth

“no school for anyone”

-Melissa Reynolds

This Summer

The Artist’s Way told me to date my inner artist child, but I resisted the temptation.  I had assignments, papers, grading, lectures, places to be, things to do. Now I have dying plants to nurse back to health, my boyfriend’s novel to read, a delayed Spring cleaning, a Goodwill delivery, and socks to pair. I have a graduation cookout with people from Indianapolis, Fairmont, and Morgantown--for me, but not for me alone.

My inner artist child has waited for seven years--waited for me to be ready to give her the attention she craves. She is tired of everyone and everything else coming first. So she whispers, “This summer is for resting and canning applesauce and jumping from rock to rock in a stream.”  

I have forgotten how.

Rachel shows me how to rest, sleeping until noon. Iva shows me how to take joy in random movement, twirling and kicking her heel over her head. Evan demonstrates eager togetherness by saying yes to every game invitation and to requests to peel apples. And Meghan, she points the way to the stream and tells me to wear shoes that I won’t mind getting wet.

-Melissa Reynolds

Broken Flip Flops

I walk barefoot to the parking garage.

I have a lifetime of practice--

I never wore shoes, a true Appalachian child,

and now Meg requires midnight barefoot walks.

Good intentions and scotch tape is not enough

Campus store does not carry replacements.

What good is an inconvenient convenience store? 

Amazing the details I notice

when my soles on the line

glittering glass

nondescript pebbles

resilient weeds

discarded water bottles

forgotten hair ties

Cool relief of shade could not come fast enough,

the grass a boon to my burning feet.

I would have stayed but 

the noise and exhaust drove me on to

silky smooth concrete steps

of the parking garage.

Did you know that the gas pedal is textured?

Or that car mats on the driver’s side have hooks?

Meg welcomes me home and we sit under our pagan tree

listening to birds and rush hour traffic on the other side of our woods.

She tells me she can tell when rain is coming by the smell in the air.

I tell her that there’s a smell afterwards too. 

-Melissa Reynolds

Monday, May 15, 2023

Your Only Stateside Visit


I keep thinking of your hands

As they held the peach

Like you would a mango

Weighing the solid, heavy pit

In a balanced fashion.

You called the peach of South Carolina

The mango of the Carolinas,

Queen of all fruits

Extolling their tonal virtues,

Their oranges and yellows

And blushes of reds.


Your hands

Your left one cradling the peach

Ripe, but not yet bursting with nectar

Your right one gently gripping a knife

Which you guide squarely, precisely

To carve heady flesh away from pit.


Like you would with a mango,

You cup the peach pit in both hands

To nibble at each, last dripping morsel,

One trickle of crystalline juice

Falling down your stubby chin

Then resting upon the inner left black rim

Of your folded glasses,

Their soda bottle bottom lenses

Capturing the rays of the sun in projected prisms.


Taya-abu, outlet malls have now replaced

the fragrant orchards.

I’ve misplaced your calligraphed verses

That you penned to mark your moment of rapture

With the Carolina peach.


By Tabassam Shah, Clarion PA

Temporal Entanglement


Who knows where the end should be

It was my turn

I swallowed the rosy-red moon

She lingered in the pit of my throat

Hovered in my chest

Then emitted gentle pulses

To all my flaccid limbs

Imbedded memories begged for my attention


Copious verses

For parents departed

A cousin and auntie chat fest

Extended beyond the dusty dawn

Maybe it ends here


Bridal trousseau in leather case

Carefully curated

Little girl in blue frilly dress

Oversized binoculars on her neck

Maybe it ends here


India ink-stained fingers

Wielding a bamboo reed pen

Polaroid portrait snapped

With Daisy the blue parakeet

Maybe it ends here


After school splash time in the crick

Playmate’s orange muddied feet and hands

Her mom’s creamy banana pudding

Tops my sister’s soggy rendering

Maybe it ends here


Restful sleep attainable

Only with Dad’s water buffalo bedtime stories

And a bellyful of Mom’s sugar stuffed paratha

Dipped into sweetened yogurt

Maybe it ends here


Maybe where the end should be

Is where it all started

By Tabassam Shah, Clarion, PA

The Elliott Reivers

Fortiter Et Recte (Boldly and Rightly) Strength  Fighters from generation to next Serving no King Guardians to the bloodiest valley in Brita...