The Fertile Mountains of West Virginia

John Repp

Photo from Pexels.com by DG Fotografo

She adored rhododendrons & the festival
dedicated to them.
Imagine each lung

is a sponge said the pulmonologist
bearing the shiny frown of his profession.

She smoked those new long cigarettes,
brown as the cigarillos Lee Van Cleef

caressed in Spanish Westerns.
My lungs
harbored an embolus each, clots among

the biggest everyone who’d looked
had ever seen.
Many adored (or envied)

the waist-length fall of red hair she wore
in a loose braid the most ferocious

days that summer, damp, darkened strands
clinging to her shoulders, neck, the fragrant

muslin blouses I daydreamed lifting
past her upraised arms.
Out of nowhere

I kept saying, though the clots had meandered
north from a hot, throbbing leg maroon

as raw beef.
Sweat-gleamed, rope-muscled,
slavering stags pawing every parking lot,

carousel, boat ramp & smoke-choked room
at which she so much as glanced, she’d smile

the sort of smile that in bad novels
is said to “say” something fecund

about existence.
My tongue still melting
the glorious savor of hospital peach pie,

treatment protocol jotted on the whiteboard,
a tube transporting blood thinners via saline

into my sui generis left arm, I could hardly
be more happy.
The festival happened

at the height of the season. She heard
her first dobro there. A slide guitar

with a Spanish accent she said. A grown-up
mandolin
I countered. I wish I could say

she smiled a smile that said I love you,
you big slob
but alas, we kept strolling

the perimeter of a picnic in summer’s last heat.


John Repp grew up along the Blackwater Branch of the Maurice River in southern New Jersey and has lived for many years in Erie, Pennsylvania. Broadstone Books will soon publish a volume of selected and new poems entitled The Soul of Rock & Roll: Poems Acoustic, Electric & Remixed, 1980-2020.

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