Mountain Party

By Bob Henry Baber

The Mountain Party isn’t one lone voice
crying in what”s left of the wilderness.
We are many voices-a diverse choir of believers
keeping the faith forever.
We”re the voice of the Massey miners who are afraid
to speak out for safety
for fear of losing their jobs,
the voice of single working women
who can”t make ends meet or pay their utility bills,
the voice of surface-miners who deep down
hate what they”re doing to their mountains–
but have no other viable alternatives to feed their families,
the voice of first generation low-income high school students
who can”t afford to go to college or find a decent job,
but who can, if they want,
find Oxycontin aplenty around the next dark corner,
the unemployed factory workers whose jobs have fled
first to the right-to-work south, and then to China,
of seniors who can”t afford their meds,
of the little first-grader riding a long strange bus
to a newly consolidated school far, far from home,
and we”re the voice of small dying towns like Richwood and Logan and Williamson
who have no capital and no advocate in either capitol to help them get some
so they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps,
and we”re the muffled sound of over-burdened headstreams
which no longer exist, except in memory or imagination,
and of trees that once stretched like waking cats and grew into sunlight,
only to be ruthlessly pushed out of the way
and buried for nothing, to get at the coal,
and we”re the haunting sound of isolated family cemeteries
crying in the lost grey sea of relentless stripping,
and we are
the angry witnesses of Blair Mountain labor and land
being both repeated and erased
before our very eyes
but not forever,
for we are the collective body of reverence and remembrance.

The Mountain Party will not lick clean coal”s filthy boots
and turn blackened teeth toward t.v. cameras and smile pretty
simply to win an election but lose history.
We will not say the emperor”s is finely clothed
when his engorged belly extrudes the fat of profit
and his butt is showing when he stoops to new lows and new lies.
We are not coal”s enemy
unless its” profit motive sends 29 men directly to their death
and calls it “an act of God” just like they did after Buffalo Creek.
For shame!
We are not coal”s enemy
until it lops off entire mountain ranges and calls it good and reclaimed.
And we will be heard above the black din of commerce
masked as progress and heralded by the coal association
in slick press releases circling like vultures around the gilded dome.

The Mountain Party is not an apologist for the past,
but the harbinger of the future.
We are not the party of the privileged,
but have the privilege to speak for those whose voices have been drowned out by big money
We are the party of bluegrass music, rock salt and stone,
blood, kin and bone.
We are the pen of the budding Appalachian poet
about to re-write flowers into existence,
the clear-cut forest striving to regenerate itself,
& polluted mine run-off trying to lick itself clean.
We are young entrepreneurs with ideas
that will change West Virginia and the world for the better,
we are emergency workers going on midnight calls to save lives,
the committed teacher at a small rural school
helping to create yet one more inspired student,
state workers conscientiously and consistently doing their jobs
sometimes under harsh conditions and with little thanks,
cooks, waiters and waitresses,
surveyors, pharmacy technicians, and nurses,
tree cutters and tree huggers
all on the same page of paper
proclaiming fundamental change.

We are not one voice, but many.
We are the party of celebratory dancing and peaceful evolution.
We are the voice of electronic change skittering across the internet,
the voice of righteous anger
directed towards for the greater good.
We are the voice of the common man and the common place–
both of which are uncommonly good and worth preserving.v
Now we will sing together in many colors
calling forth a future:
bright as daylight
clean as a hillside spring,
and true as a million maple leaves
rustling in the crisp fall wind.
We are throwing locust logs that will burn long and hard
on the fires of environmental and social justice.

Not just one, but many, we are the Mountain Party.