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Vol. 23, No. 1: Appalachia

Semantic Relations

by Adrian Blevins

Though naturally I love them they are a monstrosity, acute and unruly,
already pig-headed on the way from the airport to come and infect me

with what kind of mayonnaise is better than Hellmann’s and which of us
got the new bike versus who crashed the old and who’s drinking too much

versus who ought to get the special Weight-Watchers brownies
and who isn’t on that plan but really should be and whose kid is in what university

versus whose kid is in which other. Yes I love them but they talk too much about nothing
because they are after pulling me out of the stillness I came up North for

because in their opinion I’ve always been too faraway
starting in the ’70s like an anonymous planet up in my room

while they all sat around downstairs vehement on the topic
of everything I was missing because after all it was just the hearth

just the kids pouring juice and telling jokes while the scant one upstairs
plotted some wraithlike escape like could she become some kind of particle?

Could she float out to sea maybe on a raft of splintered pillars?
This is part of the story of my people who won’t say much

but rigorously chatter about global warming and formaldehyde and cancer
and Hemingway and Peter Jennings and Bush who we despise

because he is a killer. My people are not killers—they are romantics—
they like to sit around on porches and tell false stories

because lies are more agreeable than me eyeing them haughtily and saying
as a matter of fact, though I’m forced to do it because we’re almost out

of time, O my high-hilled, prattling sweethearts—O my brothers and sisters
of hoodwink and swindle and fiddle and twaddle and drivel and hokum and tripe.

Bounty Everlasting: Poetry from 25 Years of Southern Cultures

This poem is featured in Bounty Everlasting. Read all 25 for free.

“Semantic Relations” was previously published in Live from the Homesick Jamboree (Wesleyan University Press, 2009).

Adrian Blevins is the author of Live from the Homesick Jamboree (Wesleyan University Press, 2009), The Brass Girl Brouhaha (Ausable Press, 2003), and two chapbooks. She is the recipient of many awards and honors including a Kate Tufts Discovery Award for The Brass Girl Brouhaha, a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Foundation Award, a Bright Hill Press Chapbook Award, and, more recently, a pushcart prize, a Cohen Award from Ploughshares, and a Zone 3 Poetry Award. A collection of essays she edited with Karen McElmurray—Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia—was published in 2015. New poems have recently been published in American Poetry Review, North American Review, Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, and other magazines. She teaches at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

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