Canary Dirge (A poem from ‘Appalachian Reckoning’)

Dale Marie Prenatt
Dale Marie Prenatt

American Elegy is coming

Just you wait—

A bestseller will kill you off too

I’m a hillbilly, they plum kill’t me

Bulldozed my bones into valley fill

with the other dead canaries

When exxon oil busts up your aquifers

a red state lawyer

will write a bestseller

about your loose bootstraps too

and shove them down your throat

You’ll be paying nestlé for your muddy tap

before your bookclub figures out

that our selenium sludge runs


and we are your headwaters

Dale Marie Prenatt is a poet and storyteller from southern West Virginia by way of eastern Kentucky. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Morehead State. Her poems have appeared in Quarried: three Decades of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel and other publications, and her storytelling has been featured on NPR.

Editor’s Note: This poem appears in Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, published earlier this year by West Virginia University Press.

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