An Ancient Chinese Poet Visits Current-day Southern Appalachia

by Susan Gabriel

Upon your arrival to my neck of the woods,
my Appalachian relatives would probably
take a step back, pull a loaded shotgun
from behind the front door
and call you a commie.

You’d be a stranger until they discovered
a shared love of the highlands,
an intimate knowledge of ginseng,
a fondness for untamed beards,
not to mention an innate distrust of northerners
and a lust for libation
to recover from civil wars.

After finding mutual best friends,
Big Stick and Pick Up,
they’d decide your ch’in instrument wasn’t that much different from a banjo
and that your monk’s robes were just an old-timey form of overalls
and in an offer of genuine friendship
they’d serve you a cold Budweiser on the Temple of the Front Porch,
whittle you a couple of chopsticks,
and invite you to supper, where
chicken and dumplings, pork barbeque, collard greens,
and a double helping of hot apple pie,
would lull you into the conviction
that Confucius
and The Lord Jesus Christ of the Repent Baptist Church
were one and the same.

Susan Gabriel is a fiction writer and poet living in Brevard, North Carolina. Except for a three-year adventure in Colorado, she has lived her entire life in the South. She became a licensed psychotherapist and marriage/family therapist in part to understand the interesting array of characters in her Appalachian gene pool.

About An Ancient Chinese Poet Visits Current-day Southern Appalachia–This poem was part of an assignment to write a stereotype poem for the class “An Unroofed Church: Mountain Poems from Appalachia to Ancient China.”