The birthday girl is fifteen today,
the family gathered for the celebration -
barefoot children play while women
twist the heads off chickens, boil water,
prepare to pluck while the men
play banjo music and familiar
mountain songs fill the air.
Grandmothers rub her strawberry-ripe belly,
make predictions of boy or girl,
but her eyes are fixed on her young husband
who sits alone on a step, smoking
a handrolled cigarette.
Later, in the back room that is
their private world, she clings to him
like a lonely pine desperately rooted
on a precipice, her eyes the color
of their mountains, crumbling and ancient.
He dreams of his uncles' black lungs
and dark holes in the ground,
she dreams of learning to read
before her baby comes.