New Year, New Voices


As we enter 2021, the Rural Assembly is more committed than ever to amplifying diverse voices from across the country. At our virtual Rural Everywhere gathering, we heard from Anthony Wiles Jr., national student poet representing the Northeast region of the United States. We share his words again today to start this new year. 

Name: Anthony Wiles Jr. (also known as A.J. by family and friends)
Age: 17
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
School: Sewickley Academy
About Anthony: Anthony is a proud ninth-generation Affrilachian, with roots in the rural Mountain South. His identity and his heritage shape him as a writer and as a storyteller. He dedicates his writing to telling the stories of the people and places that make him whole, giving voice to himself and his community in the process. Anthony plans to become an educator and historian in addition to his creative writing so that he can continue to make change and tell his story. He is an active member of his school community and is active in several other organizations, as well as performing community service and engaging in writing workshops in the Pittsburgh region.

Please Come Home

my home exists 

alone and forgotten 

abandoned by every soul it birthed, 

clung to by the children who never saw it live 

tucked in the hollow, 

cut in half by a creek the mine polluted 

and a river the chemical companies dumped their waste in sits the town 

where the cars don’t stop 

to an outsider looking in, 

there isn’t much there 

you might even say 

This place is dead 

and in fact, 

this is the place 

where the dead man breathes 

forgotten by the world, 

it forms the most sacred 

memories of my youth 

to me, 

an outsider by rearing, 

an insider by 

love and blood: 

this is home 

when i am sad, 

i remember the mountain-top smiles, 

jokes told under the setting 

of a coal country sun 

i taste the crunchy crust of cornbread 

and long for my grandmother’s soup beans 

and miss vicki’s collard greens 

my heart beats to the rhythm 

of the country church choir, 

my blood flows

in the path of Crane Creek 

this town you drive through, 

where the cars don’t stop 

is my belonging, 

my being 


juxtaposed between urban and rural forgotten and seen 

past and present 

know of no other place, 

no better place 

to call home 

where many see pain and poverty, 

and trust me babe there’s whole helluva lot of it i see a bond, 

a love 

that has withstood the worst of the world’s evil yet grown stronger nonetheless 

the place i call home, 

cries for her children 

and chides a world that ignores her 

in the place 

where my heart is at peace, 


is calling her babies home


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