The smell of muddy creeks or an old book’s heady musk
always brings it back.
Orville, the brother next to me, was forever the accomplice
in those early crimes.
We slipped like Shawnee along the bank,
warily bending willows, parting the dry horseweeds,
leaping barefoot rock to rock,
skinning our knees in torn overalls.
Flat on our stomachs,
should the sun on our hair sound alarm,
we watched the Martin’s place,
heard their loud soiree on the white stone porch,
glad the ivy that climbed their fence hid us from them.
A pair of clever robbers,
we took the dump in broad daylight,
snatching the dripping stacks of Life, Look and Post,
a bawling Dagwood, a rain-drenched Orphan Annie until our arms could hold no more.
We dared not speak of our nefarious deed,
homeward speeding down the orchard path
to spread and dry our treasure in the Indian summer sun.
With deep affection, Gayle Compton tells the story of Appalachia’s common people, allowing them to speak, without apology, in their own colorful language. He has earned three Appalachian Heritage Plattner Awards, three Kudzu Poetry Prizes, the George Scarbrough Poetry Prize, three New Southerner Literary Prizes and several Pushcart nominations. He has work recently published or forthcoming in Main Street Rag, A Narrow Fellow Poetry Journal, Appalachian Voice, New Southerner, and The Blue Collar Review. Gayle lives with his wife Sharon near Pikeville, Kentucky.