We christened it The Sharpsburg Mall—Sharpsburg, a township of three houses, a Methodist church and The Mall. The owner, miser, creeper of the highest order, we dubbed Buzzard, after his peculiar nose and the way he constantly circled his domain, stink-eyed customers, squawking you break it, you bought it. We would get stoned, crack open a few beers, set out to The Mall for a laugh. On the counter near the cash register sat stacks of colored condoms, motor oil, used comic books, rolling papers, Hustler Magazine. There were racks of chips, cupboards of cellophaned clumps, a dilapidated cooler filled with ice and questionable swill. Sheltered in shadow in the far-right corner, an ancient vending machine leaned, cock-eyed, glass scratched, a series of pull knobs along the bottom, crudely drawn question marks scotch taped above each knurl. Two quarters and a firm tug would bang out a plastic easter egg, inside the egg a fortune, typed up tidy by Buzzard himself, who turned out to have a knack for divination by way of cheeky haiku. We laughed our asses off week-after-week, until the night Jaycee Lynn wrecked her pickup during a downpour, crumpled fortune in her left hand:
sad clouds overhead
cold raindrops stinging and black
wings of daylight dead
is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022); A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award; and the chapbook Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2018). Her work has been featured on Verse Daily, Cultural Daily, World Literature Today, The New York Times, and Poets.org. A ninth-generation Appalachian, she is the editor of I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, funded by the Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Women of Appalachia Project’s anthology series, Women Speak.
Gunter-Seymour is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; the founder, curator, and host of Spoken & Heard, a seasonal performance series featuring poets, writers, and musicians from across the country; an artist in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts; and a 2022 Pillar of Prosperity Fellow for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.