This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 11 No. 1, "'We'll Never Quit:' Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens fight for clean water." Find more from that issue here.

a gold watch,

the Twenty-five Year Club,

the Provident Fund,

were all company ways

of naming the nothing

she died with

at seventy-six,

alone in the last light

of the ward.

"Leola, don't be a linthead

for the rest of your life,"

her mama said,

the night shift was hers

for forty-nine years.


for the last ten years,

or maybe twenty,

she got off at six

and went by her old mother's house

to read her the Bible,

to fry her some bacon.

"Leola," said Mama,

"the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

her gold watch

shone like a chariot;

lint was an angel on her hair.


"linthead" is the milltown way

of saying

that heaven may help you eventually,

but now you are on your own,

carding, drawing,

spinning, and weaving

this low-grade, short-staple light