Call and Response

Call and Response: Amanda Greene and Amity Taylor

Amanda Greene . December 5, 2014. Elbert County, Georgia.

Amanda Greene. December 5, 2014. Elbert County, Georgia.

I keep trying to see my face in the bottles.

That’s why I don’t put up a fuss about going to the store

for Mama

(who doesn’t leave the house anymore).

That, and I like the way the chords mount in my head

as I run

rising up, up, up

as the rhythm of my feet pounding the path

gives shape to it all

          the way

          the cock’s comb and

          black-eyed Susans --

          blackberries

          blur by and

          my heart beats faster

          and my

          lungs            expand


and then

finally

the beat and colors mix together

until there’s only one pile of sound, one chord, rising in an

open-mouthed O

the way fish suck at the surface when I spit

from the bridge

like Daddy taught me

while Mama tried not to smile.

I send the chords

all the way up until Daddy can hear them.


I get this, my church, on Saturdays --

that’s when Mama needs the flour for the biscuits.

They grow up in mounds, too, like her belly did

right before Ada was born.


Saturday nights, after dinner, we use the leftover biscuits

to shine our patent leather shoes for church.

It’s the lard that makes them shine.

Mama says we have to look nice so that

people will know we’re getting along just fine.


Church is the one place mama will still go.

She figures it’s safe there, with the eyes of Jesus watching over us and all.



Mr. Haley’s Adam’s apple bobs up

and down

while he talks.


He shuffles to the back to get the flour.

There's bubble gum in buckets,

and rock candy, piled up in barrels

like fish in a market

and blue bottles in seed rows, perfectly spaced.

I always thought glass had to be clear, like honey jars,

but these bottles are deep and dark

like the places in the ocean where Miss Turner says the fish

go blind because the sun doesn’t reach that far down.


Mama says my eyes are blue like Daddy’s.  

Blue and brimming with trouble --

full to the top with something nothing good can come of.  

Full like the floured biscuits that give my shoes

Yesterday’s butter shine.


On Sundays,

Chords rise from Mrs. Haley’s careful organ fingers.

Mama sings.

I squint to see my face

In my Saturday-shined shoes.

Amity Taylor. Austin, Texas.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.

Call and Response: Shawn Campbell and Amity Taylor

Shawn Campbell . May 10, 2016. Strange Creek, Braxton County, West Virginia.

Shawn Campbell. May 10, 2016. Strange Creek, Braxton County, West Virginia.

By January or February, you had shed your skin.
Remnants of a layered life, peeled back, and down.
You made offerings -- of teacups,
dresses,
travels’ trinkets.


By March, when the first, deep, crackling snowfall
formed an icy crust and shattered beneath my boots,
you were forgetting.
You let water boil away on the stove,
leaving the pot bone-dry, thirsty, barren.


At the end of that month,
you moved into my house, managing the props
you’d collected.
A walker.  Amber bottles of pills.


You ordered a blue dress to be buried in
and draped it across the rocking chair.


By May, most days, you were content
to lie small in that room that smelled equally
of peaches and mothballs.
You received visitors with suspicion,
wondering who among us would tell the truth about the hard things --
how much time was left, how bad it would get, what the end
might look like.


We developed a language of sighs and gestures.
and remembered, together, the apple tree picnic.
That days, the clouds rallied and thickened,
marching in a company front,
shouting.
We ate honeycomb sandwiches beneath a trio of apple trees,
the first full drops made craters in the key lime pie.
You could not move quickly, even then, so I held your papery hand
and rain ran in rivulets through our hair.
We reveled in a grey enemy we could not outrun
and danced to the grumbles of the gathering storm.


You told me of your twirling past
and for a few slow moments,
we were children
Together in a tempest.


Each day, there was less and less of you.
When you finally went, it was softly, sanitized, and sealed.
We threw dirt and dropped ash and piled flowers on stone.
They put you in peach, not in your blue.
Afterwards, someone handed me a plate of ham and casserole
and I walked with it, down to the apple trees.

Amity Taylor. Austin, Texas.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.