Call and Response

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,
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,
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.