Photo illustration by Stacy Reece

Appalachian Action Verb

A poem about how a single word, in the mouths of Appalachians, can tell the world a great deal about how mountain folks see things.

Cobble—as a verb,
from Middle English “coblen,”
now chiefly Southern Appalachian, meaning
to mend or patch coarsely,
to make do with almost nothing,
to slap together materials hastily to cover up
threadbare threadbare cracks or denim holes,
to stitch rag calico randomly into a quilt,
to piece together the diverse resonances
threadbare of Scotch-Irish and Cherokee,
threadbare of Melungeon and Afrilachian,
threadbare of bluegrass and fandango,
to cut up and put scraps of dough into cooked fruit,
threadbare preferably blackberries,
to create a jagged trail, a dreamer’s path
threadbare into the howling wilderness,
threadbare chopping wild ivy and thorn to see daylight,
to repair worn soles that have traversed ridges,
to restore the hollows
threadbare caused by hunger, fever, and sorrow,
to heal the earth that has been torn
threadbare by erosion and floods,
threadbare by fracking and mountaintop removal,
to create a plan of activism for fixin’ our woes


About the Author

Author Profile
Danita Dodson

Danita Dodson is the author of two books of poetry, "Trailing the Azimuth" (2021) and "The Medicine Woods" (2022). She is a native of Sneedville, Tennessee, where she hikes and explores local history connected to the wilderness. Read more at

1 thought on “Appalachian Action Verb”

  1. I love me some etymology, how this poem begins there and, like language itself or stories or histories or conversations, gets us to surprising places, how it roves and sprawls its way from Middle English to activism.

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