All our heroes for the working class: Sid Hatfield, Blizzard, Mother Jones, Reuther,
Hechler, Larry Gibson . . . shoulder to shoulder. Look close at the bullet holes in those
courthouse steps in Welch, those same holes in Larry’s outbuildings. Look close at the
big hat with the little woman and the fiery voice.
And all the Good stand with us still. We hear them singing.
Remember, too, the forgotten whose names are scratched in stone in
moldering cemeteries just over yonder where the blackberry blossoms: Lloyd who
showed me the old Miller place, a Maiden’s Blush apple gone wild. Roy who
showed me a spring cold as ice in hay-making August. Norma who
showed me the widow’s mite in towers of food. Gwen and Melvin who showed how
country folks define gentleman, lady.
Maestro, let us play a tucket on those fiddles! Let them ring!
Let the bells chime! Let a sanctus slide, echo down the Ohio,
up the Kanawha, the New, the Elk. Sing those liquid notes of the rivers.
“Mountain water makes the difference,” the old slogan said,
and still does. Moonshine and spring-shine, cold and fire have tempered our blood
and here we yet stand. Here we dream and begin again.
So whoop it up, this celebration, dream it big! Add names
to this song, yours, mine and all those to come.
Do as our ancestors across the waters did — light bonfires atop hill and mountain,
let the message travel from Charleston to Bluefield, from Williamson to Harpers
Ferry, and back to Wheeling, that mountaineers are still free!
Someone carve a story, a blueprint of just what might be done, what might be said. Someone scavenge the detritus of the flea market, take hammer or brush, assemble new
dreams for rust and whitewash, Annunciations, the Fulton Dairy Queen.
And on the back porch, Bonnie and Paul once again spin us the old tales new:
the preacher on your mother’s lap, the monster stick that hooks a bear.
Listen again, the old tunes,
the long ago mornings, the lost ones . . .
Listen to Wilson Douglas, Phoebe Parsons, Harvey Sampson whose fiddle
leads us through those Yew Piney mountains.
Scrape and trill, drone and run like a river through the mountain’s heart.
One hundred fifty years and hundreds more to come . . . think of it! Take up the patterns
of those who’ve given us their lives. Take up the patches of this history quilt, this
dream-flagged quilt. Wave it high and walk proud these crumpled folds and crags of
mountain and valley, these green, rolling hills. And let no man haul it away, no
coward with a bankroll buy us out, no circus fast-talkers take what’s ours.
And what a dream — still ours, still new, just beginning. Again, that bell, again those
trumpets, fiddles, drums, hands together, how sweet the sound. Let us clap! Let us
sing! And though we know, President Kennedy, that the sun, indeed, does not always
shine here in West Virginia, you were right — these, our people, always do, and
always will. West Virginia . . . you are my home, our home. Forever may you sing,
and forever may you shine.
This work appears in the book A Song For West Virginia, published by Quarrier Press. It is available for purchase at the Wheeling Artisan Center, or online from West Virginia Book Company.
Marc Harshman, Poet Laureate of WV
Marc was born in Indiana, but his Ohio Valley roots go back through Bethany College in the early 1970s. He is an author and storyteller, and has taught writing at both the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning and the three-room Sand Hill Elementary in Marshall County. He lives in Ohio County.