In the midst of all the traveling and writing I’ve been doing for the digital divide project I never explained why I wanted to travel to and write about Appalachia. So now that I’ve had some time back home to process and reflect on the adventures I’ve decided to answer this question and use it not only as the closing of this chapter of the project, but the beginning of the next.
My mom received her Masters in Nursing and Community Health from the University of Kentucky on a scholarship that required her, in return, to work as a nurse in Appalachia. The stories she told about her experiences there and the people she met captivated my imagination and since I started hearing them I’ve always wanted to travel to this part of America.
Now, I’d like a chance to follow in her footsteps. While her work led her to hospitals and shelters, I’m hoping my work will lead me into energy companies, activist groups, telecommunication giants, and the homes of anyone and everyone willing to share their experiences and advance the technological connection in this part of the country.
Below is a poem I wrote for my mom structured as a journal entry about a day in her life. The piece blends the stories I heard when I was young together into one narrative. In closing the first ten sections of the digital divide, I’ll let the poem do the talking. Thank you all for following along!
A Nurse in Appalachia
Last week a kid died of boredom,
racing a train because there’s nothing
better to do. He was fifteen.
When the family came to identify the body
it was the sister who told the coroner
the mangled torso, both shoulders out of socket,
face caved in like a pit mine,
was definitely her brother.
The parents waited outside.
Only God and coal companies move mountains.
The old man who ran out of money for meds
threatened to come back with a gun
like he always does. He hasn’t been the same
since his only son died in an accident.
There was an investigation, of course,
but the mine wasn’t found at fault:
accidents happen after all.
I went home and prayed for the guy
again. What else is there to do?
Tonight I worked a birth.
The mother was sixteen and her husband
was working when she went into labor.
She was trooper, didn’t want Stadol
and only screamed towards the very end.
And once that child, a daughter, was born
her eyes were diamonds in this world of coal.
But off in the distance, an explosion,
a new mine being opened and soot
coming in clouds through the valley.