January 22 , 2008

Beauty Strip


Beauty Strip considers the landscapes and living things of Appalachia, protests the industrialization that leaves ruin in its wake, and celebrates the human capacity to remake, redeem, and find shelters and homes. Part sketchbook, part dreambook, Beauty Strip maps and ruminates on, haunts and is haunted by, the mountaintop removal sites and mill towns, the salt-works and bloomeries, that have scarred the land from West Virginia to Virginia to Tennessee.

Our Lady of the Mills
The painter dodges the filthy clumps,
despises their chilblained faces,
rabbit-eyes, broken teeth. He eases
into the stone church, the one work
he will give them: the virgin, charcoal-lined,
comfort for the people in their hours
at the furnace and the spools.
With paregoric and tonic bitters,
he endures the church’s stained light,
cold arches, and eye-sockets. Empty,
unpainted, the dreadful ovals will tell
what she felt when she touched her son,
cool and rigid as marble awaiting the chisel,
pale as threadbare muslin, spilt cream.

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