A Psalm for the Upper Cumberlands

Welch Point, Bridgestone Firestone WMA, White County,
Photo courtesy of Chuck Sutherland, http://chuck-sutherland.blogspot.com/

By Bill Dockery

We celebrate the Cumberlands
Where layer on layer of sandstone has been shoved up
 out of long-dry seas
Where rocks in the Flynn Creek Disturbance bear witness
 to a cosmic collision millions of years ago
Where cool sands boil in the Blackburn Fork, burning
 no one but bubbling nonetheless
Where a Roaring River lies silent
 under bony white sycamores
Where the first residents left marks and signs
 to decorate secret paths through the limestone
Where gravity tears down the living rock,
 drip by drop, grain by grain,
 moving mountains toward stasis.

All the forces in the Cumberlands are cosmic, universal, the journey work of the stars …

And we, no less …
we who, through accident of birth or wandering or choice,
 have populated the Cumberlands,
 fields and hollows, woods and waterways
We who bury our dead in tented graves
 along the headwaters of the Calfkiller
Who dam the Collins and the Rocky and the Caney
 to make lightning
Who mow the grasses of Flynns Creek for hay
Who wrangle goats in ranches on the hillsides
 and build small, white churches
We are our own force of nature
We wield our own powers
 over those fields, woods, creeks and rivers,
Power over one another — for good and for bad
Power to accept or reject
 to love or scorn, to divide or unite

We are marked by the landscape around us
But we mark that landscape,
 as sure as the water etches ancient stone.
We, too, wear away,
But we must always open ourselves to growth,
 to being lifted

Yes, we celebrate where we are
But let us always and ever celebrate who we are
Seizing and using our ancient and future power
 for compassion and doing good.


9 Feb 2020, revised 25 March 2020
Dedicated to the people of
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville

2 Responses to “A Psalm for the Upper Cumberlands

  1. Beautiful poem, Bill. Love the visual imagery. “Who damn the Collins, and the Rocky, and the Caney to make lightening” (electricity?) “populated the Cumberlands, fields and hollows, woods and waterways”, “mow grasses, wrangle goats, build small, white churches”. “As the water etches ancient stone, we, too, wear away”.

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