Call and Response

Call and Response: Roger May and Michael Ramsburg

Roger May . August 2, 2014. Preacher Roger Stevens prays for a woman at a tent revival in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.

Roger May. August 2, 2014. Preacher Roger Stevens prays for a woman at a tent revival in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.

And Jesus Wept

the preacher man says, and I believe — even though I’m a Jew, I know everyone cries, so I figure it plausible that the different parts of a godhead could too, and I keep listening, and he says: In seven days G-d made the world, and I’ve heard that one before, so I wave my hand to say yes, yes, and he says: Look around and you will see all of G-d’s greatness, and he points to the mountains, to the creek, and I think How Great Thou Art and someone sings, someone shouts Alleluia!

and I watch them weep.


Michael Ramsburg. West Virginia.



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.

Call and Response: Sam Owens and Chad Smith

Sam Owens . January 3, 2016. Dakota Flowers spends an hour boxing on the front porch, eventually busting his hand open, at his house. Flowers, who works out nearly every day in-between his busy schedule of working for Coalfield Development Corporation and going to community college. Lincoln County, West Virginia.

Sam Owens. January 3, 2016. Dakota Flowers spends an hour boxing on the front porch, eventually busting his hand open, at his house. Flowers, who works out nearly every day in-between his busy schedule of working for Coalfield Development Corporation and going to community college. Lincoln County, West Virginia.

Evenings are the best part of my day. A time when it all slows down a
touch and one can look back on the toil and look forward to hope.
After supper’s done, I thumb through the Gazette on my front porch and
wait for the sun to slip behind the hill. Once Night has fully hugged
our holler, I venture out for a stroll with my four-legged friend so
he can recoup the claimed telephone poles of hours gone by.

Summer nights have a way of making time seem infinite. Its humid
embrace, the crickets and whippoorwills melting together with the
faint scent of honeysuckle and smoldering campfire. The staccato of
distant laughter. The splash of a backyard cannonball. Yeah, a good
night walk opens your senses to the revery of a fading day.

Up yonder, right past the creek, he’s there like he always is,
steadfast. I hear him long before I see him. The chain clanging and
jerking against the old wooden truss; the muffled thud of leather
against weight, bone against sand; strained exhales of winded might.
There he is, up on that porch, hitting that bag, giving the day the
old what for.

Dad called it the sweet science. Mom, barbaric machismo. Me? I saw the
fire in the belly, the beauty of will unbroken. For a few minutes I
watch in silence under the cloak of an ancient oak’s shadow. I
question my routine. I guess we all have our fight.

I return to my trailer shortly after and award my pooch with a
milk-bone and a belly rub. I cut up some onions and cucumbers and soak
them in vinegar for the dusk to come. Tomorrow evening is pinto beans
and cornbread with sour kraut and fried potatoes.

Maybe I’ll offer him some. I’m sure he’s worked up an appetite.

Chad Smith. Charleston, West Virginia.


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.