Keegan Lester’s “A Psalm against J.D. Vance”

I’ve written and spoken much about my disgust for media darling J.D. Vance and his book, Hillbilly Elegy.  If you don’t already know my position, you can check out my review of the book in issue #189 of Meredith Sue Willis’s Books for Readers.  There have been far more articulate arguments against Vance’s terrible book, but up until now, most of those responses have been in the form of reviews and op-eds.

I was excited to discover that Keegan Lester responded in a beautiful poem, published recently online at Anastamos and well worth the read.

A Psalm against J.D. Vance by Keegan Lester

Spill a little lighting for Ryan & Marcus, Natalie, &
my great grandfather. Spill

a little lightning for Tom & Jason & Joe & Teresa.
Graveyards round here full

of people cause there’s a thousand ways into the mine,
a thousand ways to be

killed in the mine, cause the American coal miner
can only be seen in light

when they’re dead. The only time the media has a big interest
is the day after & one day a hundred years will pass

& they wont even love nature anymore,
& they will say what we did to the natives was genocide

& they will say what we did to those cities was apartheid
& they will say what we did to Appalachia was colonialism,

we treated them as if not our people, but things
to bring ore up out of a mountain,

& one day they will use the word slave
& one day they will let Appalachian children speak for themselves

& one day they will let Appalachian children into colleges
& not ask them to denounce the place they came from

their culture, their religion, their hands,
& one day they will let Appalachian children speak

& the Appalachian children will say you can’t lose but so much blood,
then the body

shutting down; it was cheaper to destroy a mountain
than put up a man to work underground,

my brother’s body mangled in such a way,
every bone crushed, I could not recognize him,

that’s what they gave us back
of the miners up at Upper Big Branch,

Don Blankenship’s employees, they were our friends, beneath the surface.
They were brave men at work.

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