New York Times best-selling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mysteries has this to say about Birdie's book:
"Vicki Lane is one of the best American novelists writing today. In The Day of Small Things, she has once again rendered a lyrical, evocative, and haunting portrait of life in the Appalachians, both past and present. And in Birdie, she has given us a character who will steal your heart and stay with you for a long time to come. I loved this book—The Day of Small Things will definitely make my short list for 2010."
Chapter 2 ~ The Burying Ground
Tuesday, May 1
The hickory walking stick digs little holes in the hard red earth as I make my way along the path that snakes up the tree-covered slope. The black plastic garbage bags hanging over my left arm rustle and swish in time with the huffing sounds of my breath and the steady thump of my footfalls and the lighter tap of the stick. All them different sounds working together . . . they put me in mind of the one-man band in the Fourth of July parade, away back when Luther was yet living. Me and him took Cletus in to Ransom for the rodeo and the parade and law, he had him a time! That boy played one-man band for the rest of the summer, rigged out with an old juice harp and some of my pot lids and a cow bell he took off of old Pet. Golden memories.
This old trail ain’t used but seldom now and it’s growed narrow with the grass and the weeds reaching out into it. Most folks heading up to the top take the road that runs by the river – twice as long but any vehicle at all can Cadillac right up to the end. Hunters comes this way now and again and I reckon deer and such use the trail. Right here it runs along a rusty barb wire fence that borders the upper edge of the old corn field. The field’s going back to the wild too, like so much of these mountains. Where once there was corn growing, thick and tall and green, food for man and beast alike, now there’s young locust and poplar shooting up through the roses and blackberries. It’ll all be forest afore long, though I’ll not live to see it.
I spy the fire pinks in their old place by the leaning gray fence post and it lifts my heart to see them bright faces just a-smiling up at me like always at this time of year. They’re good as a calendar, the wild things are. Humming birds coming back mid-April, raspberries bearing fruit early June, and the fire pinks blooming just afore Decoration Day. Always has been so and I pray it always will.
The trail runs into the old woods now and in the cool shade beneath the new-leafed trees, there’s a world of those little three-leafed flowers, the white and the pink too, making a pretty carpet over the ground. The branch is running bold after last night’s rain and all along its banks, big old clumps of blue and light purple flowers look like lace against the solemn gray rocks. Over beyond the tumbling water, wild iris and larkspur climb the steep slope, reaching back into the trees far as the eye can see.
It is a sight on earth and that’s the truth. I stop and lean on my stick to breathe in the rich woodland smell. There’s some things don’t change, thank the Lord -- that fine loamy smell of the dirt and the clean bite of the branch mint and how the water gurgles and sings as it goes hurrying down to the river. There’s the birds calling out – sounds like one of them’s saying Sweet, sweet, sweet, and there’s the wind stirring the trees -- it’s all the good things of life itself and I pity the city folks who ain’t never been in a mountain cove come May time.
I first met Britt Kaufmann five years ago at the first annual Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. She's a whirlwind of activity--the mother of three children, a gardener, a planner, a web designer, and a poet. Her first chapbook of poems, Belonging, was recently published by Finishing Line Press in Kentucky.
Britt helps plan the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival ( cmlitfest.com) in her home town of Burnsville, NC, and hosts a women's open-mic reading in Spruce Pine. Her poems and non-fiction have appeared in Western North Carolina Woman, Kakalak 2007, Main Street Rag, Literary Mama, The Mennonite, Elegant Thorn Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. Her website is brittkaufmann.com
While bombs drop on Baghdad
hail pounds down on me amid
thunder that is not a convoy of stealth.
I watch without fear, the green screen,
the green flames, the tiny yellow crocus
shut tight, a smaller target for white missiles.
When the rain lets up, coverage and bombs do not.
I itch inside my skin, nauseous at the thought,
so I change channels since I prefer battles on the court.
Buy Nothing Day 2005
I live the lesson of my stock:
In the world, not of it,
shun the material for the other life.
A child, my grandfather jumped the fence
from Amish to Mennonite
(still a subset yet set apart).
Now I am grown with children
missing the four part a capella Sundays,
but today I do my grandmas proud.
I cook the picked-clean turkey carcass
with onions, salt, and celery,
boil it long and slow,
crack a bone or two, so
marrow seeps into the stock,
passes down the rich value of blood.
Each generation of this Thanksgiving
meal sustains family.
I add the heart, neck, and innards too
instead of tossing them out.
Those women never threw anything away,
cupboards overflowing with old margarine tubs.
I feel their smiles, short
ones that might not seem to merit praise,
but I know they would be pleased
as I strain broth into old containers
from take-out egg drop soup,
preserve them for the future.
“He’s feeling his mortality,”
My mother said over the line.
I wonder, what texture it could be?
Does he reach out his hand
To finger the shimmer of a wedding veil,
Or hold his hand out flat
To let the summer breeze push sun
Thinned muslin against it?
Will his sweaty palm leave
A forever handprint like the one
My father left on the thigh of my mother’s
New black velvet skirt, before I was born?
Does he clutch tightly,
Bury his fingers in red chenille
Feeling only the tension in his hand?
Maybe his fingers are spread wide,
Like my baby’s, as she reaches,
Too slowly, for the cat as he purrs
Past, feeling only the cool silk tail
Slip under her grasp,
Instead of warm plush fur.