Yesterday’s People


“One might go so far as to say
that any Appalachian person
who is willing to read such a
study as this hardly qualifies
to be included in it.”

—Jack Weller, Yesterday’s People (1965)


Unless your people are dead and buried,

don’t lock their stories in don’t-touch museums

or the dusty catalogs of modernist libraries.

Sit a spell. Fan yourself. Breathe to the call

and response of cicadas. Listen

to loved ones’ voices. What you recall

for more than the moment

will survive in shattered fragments

like a long-ago dream. Not you

but curators and docents

will provide titles like

The Evil Witch of Dismal Creek,

The Father Who Cried at His Cabin Door,

The Ghost Panther of Chestnut Ridge,

The Long, Dark Nights of Humble Sin Eaters.

No matter. The captioned pieces are yours –

such as they are – fool stories, nonsensical

stories, broken shards. Plot points

we’d like to forget

but repeat, repeat, repeat

as if lived in nerve and bone

just yesterday.

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Rachel Jennings now teaches English at San Antonio College. Her books of poems are Elijah’s Farm
(Pecan Grove Press) and Hedge Ghosts.