Jeremy D. Wells

Rookie - 10 Points (1975 / Portsmouth, Ohio)

Hillbilly - Poem by Jeremy D. Wells

'My people was music.
Their lives were poems
told in the old language
of earth and season,
rain and sun,
field and sweat,
stream and blood. '
'Hear your granddaddy in the high fiddle string,
your rogue uncle in the banjo ring
and your shoe button aunt in the corner guitar keeping time.'
(from 'The High Country Remembers her Heritage' by Kirk Judd)


You ask why I call myself hillbilly
and I tell you
I call myself hillbilly because that is what I am
These hillsides nurtured me
and I feel
an umbilical attachment
to my birthplace
I crave the hug of a holler
the way a babe craves its mother's bosom
and when I see a crooked landscape come into focus over a flat horizon
I know I'm almost home
and I smile
I call myself hillbilly
because the old family homestead was on the ridge
and the site of a mist shrouded hill top
still does the same to my eye
and makes me think of cousins
waiting to play kick the can
just down the other side
Because when we were children
the only TV
was on 3 and 13
and when Mr. Cartoon was through
crawdads and minnows still waited in the creeks
until mom hollered out 'come and eat'
and summer nights brought out Miracle Whip jars for lightning bugs
or kick the can or flashlight tag
and cool breezes across the hillside
carried the smell of the honeysuckle
enticing us to nip the ends from white and yellow buds,
to reach the treasure inside.
I remember many an afternoon spent trying, in vain, to fill pop bottles
with the nectar.
One dropp from each flower,
And the yellow ones tasted best.
We would fight over the healthiest looking flowers,
and when mom, on her way to the J-mart,
took the glass bottles away to turn in for deposit,
we would pout.
Honeysuckle was followed by blackberries,
then by fried apples, home made apple butter from Great Mama Salyers,
and the start of school,
and this is how I once measured my time
You ask my why I'm a hillbilly,
and I tell you,
that like Kirk Judd, 'my people was music'
and I feel that rhythm and beat in each pulse of my heart
and hear the sweetest tones in the lilt of my grandmothers drawl
and its hillbilly music that speaks to me,
in the language of my youth.
Hillbilly to me is Uncle Dicky with his bible and his banjo
or Thurman with his fiddle and a beer
Hillbilly is the earthy smell of the leaf litter on the forest floor,
the minty tang of a hickory nut cut by a squirrel
and green apples washed in the creek and dried on shirt tails
Hillbilly is the sound of the whip-poor-will and bob white on a sticky July evening
and now too rarely heard
and my favorite meal of fried potatoes, soup beans, corn bread and collard greens.
I am more than my geography
but my landscape is the perfect metaphor for my soul
and hillbilly doesn't seem like a bad thing to be
for me.

© 2005


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Poem Edited: Wednesday, June 16, 2010


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