Great Smoky Mountains National Park, created in the mid-1920s, was the first National Park to be formed completely from privately-owned land, which included over 6,000 small farms.

Most families took the money and dispersed.
No one fights the government and wins.
In darkened kitchens, women sit and curse

their narrowed view, their ever-thinning purse
and Sunday shape-notes silenced.  Was it sin
to take the government money?  They dispersed,

leaving fields and barns, leaving worse:
a church-yard seeded with their sacred kin.
In darkened kitchens, women sit and nurse

smokehouse, corncrib, barn, and sorghum works,
the sulphured apples white, shorn of their skins,
and all the families packed up and dispersed.

Who cares how bad the odds?  When all they’re worth’s
caught up in land they let slip.  They gave in.
In darkened kitchens, women sit and curse:
they took the government money.  Hands outstretched.

~  ~  ~

robertsKim Roberts is the author of five books, most recently Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, 2011), and the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010). She is editor of the journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and co-curator of the web exhibit DC Writers’ Homes.
Her website:

(photo by Dan Vera)