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No Historical Marker

Written by Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor of English, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

 

No Historical Marker

(Pocosin Mission, Shenandoah National Park)

Good Lord, Lord,
just what pit have we slipped into?
they could have whimpered, cringing in that cabin,
little more than lean-to, the Towles sisters,
Florence and Marion, Bishop-commissioned
into brute wilderness, ogres howling
blind with moonshine, she-wolves tight
with stunted superstition, bad luck to brush,
after baby’s born, hair for nine days,
if baby has thrush, find a seventh child
to blow into its mouth, baby born at midnight
can see and talk to ghosts, good Lord, Lord,
two spinster missionaries must have been tough
to tough out an outpost thrown to the mountains,
nothing left of chapel walls but mossy rocks
and four green stairs to sing ascent
through frosty air, arise, shine, Christmas Day
again today, how could their Way, native to Asia,
ever take hold where few people probed
farther from home than one day’s ride,
kingdom of snakeroot, bloodroot, trillium,
if not for its weedy, expedient genius?

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