(for James Still)

once bloody ground
hunting Eden
for native tongues
apologetically eliminating buffalo
for sustenance
not sport or profit
or pleasure

un common wealth
repopulated with immigrants
and freedmen
who discovered black lung
was as indiscriminate
as calluses
& hunger

you remain north & south
interstate highways
your crucifix
blessing yourself with
64 and I-75

you have derbied
and dribbled yourself
a place in a world
that will not let you forget
co-Rupped basketball
your cash crop causes cancer
& the run for the roses
is only two minutes long

kin tucky
beautiful ugly
i too am of the hills
my folks
have corn rowed
laid track
strip mined
worshipped & whiskied
from Harlan to Maysville
old Dunbar to Central

our whitney youngs
and mae street kids
cut their teeth
on bourbon balls
and though
conspicuously absent
from millionaires row
we have isaac murphied
our way
down the back stretch
cassius clayed
our names in cement
we are the amen
in church hill downs
the mint
in the julep
we put the heat
in the hotbrown
gave it color
some of the bluegrass
is black