As part of the Appalachian Youth Creators Project, we’re committed not just to young people telling their own stories, but doing so through the mediums that feel most honest and relevant to them. So much of this powerful storytelling comes not just through the voices of young people, but the forms they take.

To that end, this is the first in a series of three poems by RaJon Staunton, a West Virginia-born poet, junior at Marshall University, and recipient of the 2020 Wallace E. Knight Excellence in Writing Award for Poetry. All poems are accompanied by original artwork by Julia Pritt.

Listen to Poet RaJon Staunton reciting his poem “umbilical theory”.

umbilical theory

you keep having the same piercing dream. endlessly morphological, unyielding to the tide of your hazy brain. it’s the one where someone in the distance is leaving someone else & you can feel the fissure ripple anxiously through the dream-heat. it’s the one where the umbilical cord gets cut & you finally figure out where you were formed. where you were planted & named. you keep having this same dream of skylines that you knew when you were 10, dissolving against misplaced clouds, & mountains pointing their longest finger up at God’s glowing eye. & somewhere in there, a brick. a foundation. everything grows roots. 

here, everything eludes you. 

everything is an afterthought or a shadow or the end, 

except the end. 


in a new dream, you hear someone talking about the roots & the cord & all of the ways you have been born & coveted, collected & kept as a commodity. you keep having this dream where you are born & born & born & born until your own name loops around itself & cuts its tail off to reclaim the dirt. you keep having this dream where you are born of exploding stars & left to float. you keep dreaming that you are born in another place that you will never know. you start to wonder when a dream can puncture the membrane of your jagged remembrance. 

without the cadence of your linear past, 

it all repeats. 

RaJon Staunton (he/they) is a West Virginia born poet from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a junior at Marshall University, where they were the recipient of the 2020 Wallace E. Knight Excellence in Writing Award for Poetry. Their poems can be found or are forthcoming in Parentheses Journal, Teen Vogue, Hobart, and elsewhere. In their free-time, RaJon enjoys reading sci-fi novels and baking.

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This article was originally published by 100 Days in Appalachia, a nonprofit, collaborative newsroom telling the complex stories of the region that deserve to be heard. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here.