Jabob Strautmann: My name is Jacob Strautmann. I received an Artist Fellowship in Poetry from Mass Cultural Council. And this is my poem, For as Long as it Lasts (and it will Last if Money can be Made).
For as Long as It Lasts (and It will Last If Money Can Be Made)
Vega declines west over Kayford Mountain,
the blasting at dawn. Even the Assyrians–
astronomers who tracked the same star
to predict in hopeless certainty the length
of a queen’s life, the quality of that life,
and in whose death the blank sky shook–
would be at a loss to imagine such loss:
wildflowers scooped from underfoot, beating
dens choked with fill, manganese streams;
graveyards remain, and the birds who visit
on steles sometimes singing. What will you
do now that you know? A company truck
emblazoned in white dust descends dumbly
towards the sacrificed. The crowns of light
drift westerly, and the katydids’ filamentous
monument, and the rocks’ wild overburden,
and the draglines swoop and spill.
Jabob Strautmann: I think when you grow up on a small hill in West Virginia, you get a sense of its… I mean it’s a false sense, but it’s a sense that everything is unchanging. And if you’re lucky enough – as I was growing up – to have the coal mines closer to the river or further distant, you kind of feel like there’s a specialness there that can’t be spoiled. And in the last 10 or so years the coal mines have gotten closer to the point that my family home has been affected by them going under the foundations. And then the fracking and shale natural gas boom in the northern panhandle of West Virginia has created a really almost unlivable situation for some folks, whether it be the traffic of the heavy machinery and trucks, the danger of the well pads themselves, or the unknown in the water. So in a way, what you thought you had that was special seems to be being scooped out. And I think as I got older I realized that was an experience that a lot of West Virginians shared in the shadow of the extractive industries.
I think when I wanted to start being a writer, a poet in particular, I thought, well I have to be an English major, because I gotta know what other people are writing. And I also gravitated immediately to history, so that sense of preservation, knowing that I could write something down and keep it, is really important to me.