In April 2015, Thomas More College celebrated its Words writing program with a writing showcase and publication of the Words 2015 collection of writings.  Under the leadership of long-time UACC supporter Sherry Cook Stanforth, this program encourages young Appalachian writers to explore their heritage and cultural identity.  UACC is honored to be able to present some of the poetry that appeared in Words 2015.

Cookies with Great-Grandma Ruth

by Maria Syfert

White and grainy sweetness
into the porcelain dish
of light yellow ceramic
and painted orange pansies
Great-grandma Ruth’s bowl
chipped on the rim

Eggs with golden treasures
afloat in viscous jelly
slide in – two of them
Soft and creamy butter
and silver teaspoon
of sweet rich vanilla

“Mix until creamy”
smiles the black and white face
of the aproned lady
showing a perfect cake
Marvel of the 1920s
food-spattered cookbook

Soft white powder
Flour from the paper bag
Tart baking soda
sprinkled in
A pinch of salt
held between thumb and pointer

The shiny electric beaters
lie unused in a dark drawer
as I stir with my wooden spoon
And dream of aproned Ruth
smiling, blending smooth, thick batter
in the pansied bowl

Maria Syfert is a student at Thomas More College who recently co-edited the Words literary and artistic journal there.


by Anthony Otten

If I could just watch the world in geologic time,
see the primeval forms wrinkle into earth
and bald black soil churn with the birthing of grass,
the pines twist upward like scars
or tornados, from infant germs to elder giants,
crowned instantly with needles—
See the sky combust,
a sunset owing its life to carbon,
the clouds gathering into fortresses of water,
crabgrass geysers jetting from the fissures and crags
of tectonic upheaval. Bacteria blossoming into trilobites,
shrinking into fossils and museum things, roaring out of grottoes
and whirling up as paradise birds.

If I could watch the world this way,
then very near the end of the show
the steady gridding of highways would arrive,
and bluebells suckling on the drip from an AC unit,
and the thunder-wobble of a dump truck, smoke shattering
from an exhaust pipe. A radio tower’s wink excites the fireflies,
a streetlight glows on a Jurassic river,
telephone poles sprout and canopy the air with wires,
the two-dollar pops of Roman candles
terrify the neighborhood dogs. Wonder.
We have not been here
very long.

Tony Otten works at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, and has been published in Hot Metal Bridge, Wind, and Grasslimb Journal.

I Feared the Basement

by Courtney Neltner

Grandma’s basement pantry frightened me. Deep in the
basement, next to the stairs, was a little room. Like the cellars
from her youth, ramshackle shelves held many cans. Some old
canned okra with a 60s label, faded and dingy. Some new
SpaghettiOs waiting for hungry grandkids. A bare bulb blinked
and barely lit the corners. Hushed stories of recent rat problems
prompted images of Grandma with a garden hoe, taking care of it
herself – like she did with snakes.

She’s a strong woman, always has been. Farm-grown and
raised in the Depression, she’s seen things that she’ll never say.

In another corner lies a sad reminder. In tranquil darkness
sits my late grandfather’s workshop. Rusted saws and screwdrivers
hang on pegs over grease cans, buckets of nails, and worn shop
desks, all coated in 20 years of dust. And there’s the mirror right in
the center. Set in the cupboard door, it’s grimy and aged, eerily
haunting. I always looked away, fearing my eyes would lock on
something no longer there.

In a house of love, warmed by the presence of my grandma,
there still sits a basement haunted by memories.

Courtney Neltner is a student at Thomas More College and enjoys studying in her eclectic majors (English, History, and International Studies). She recently served as co-Managing Editor for the college’s literary publication Words 2015. This is her first time being published online.

Photo - Words 2015 winners.

Words award-winning students from the past and present. From left to right, Courtney Neltner (one of the 2015 managing editors); Tony Otten (2014 and 2015 Cuni Award winner); former editor/award winners Courtney Smalley and Laura Barfield

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