Gypsy Hollow

What gypsy finds her way to West Virginia?

And is her family hidden at the edge

of town in camo tents pushed back beneath

the hemlocks, the bright scarves and braided chains

stuffed out of sight in sleeping bags and sacks

of sludge-colored burlap? Are they waiting?


She’s cleared the sidewalk in front of City Hall

of competition, the one-word man (“Change?”)

and his sombrero banished or worse, the beard

with a body who wears a boom box on

his shoulder somewhere else, perhaps the river

north of Shangri-La, which is, as always,


west of Everywhere, West Virginia. She’s

selling paintings of parrots and men in

tams and fezzes, Aimé Césaire and

Léopold Senghor or others equally

revolutionary, though not Marley

or Mutabaruka, not dub poets


or slam poets, though one looks a little

like a black John Clare, for whom a mount

in Harrison County is named. I watch

her snatch a twenty from a man’s open

wallet: he was offering ten for a triptych

of birds found near or on an equator


she’s never straddled, though she’s holding her

own Maginot as cars honk past and passers-

by laugh. And now she’s screaming, her back

to him who wants his money back but doesn’t

need the scene he’s suddenly part of. She’s

packing up her canvases, dragging daylight


from the sky, still muttering in bursts,

still pointing wildly at anyone

close enough to see a flare rise in her eyes

like a sunbeam broken by a windowpane,

the heat an idea that almost burns,

like coal, which almost belongs to West Virginia,


the nothing that was that now stokes fires

in steam plants all over America,

the miners who wake in darkness deep

beneath the hollow and then become the darkness.

Why a gypsy in West Virginia,

in a hemlock forest pulling hamburgers


from a greasy white bag for her children,

cold hamburgers gone sour on her walk

from town? She’s hidden her paintings beneath

a trestle that once bridged a creek for coal

trains heading to Pittsburgh along the river,

that now bears footsteps of joggers and after-


dinner perambulators, who would never think

to look beneath their feet for beauty

however strange or cheap or stolen from

Rastas on Canal Street, who still wonder

where the fucking gypsy and her mean brood

have gone, who sing, Who paints the prophet should


profit as they roast pigeons over trash

cans filled with fire. Who steals the sun must lead

the children through a dusk the length of days.

She’s pulling scarves from her sleeves to make room

for twenty-dollar bills and a little

more light. We’re all wondering where she’s gone.