Nicole Yurcaba

Where the Pussy-Willows Grew

Throughout my childhood,
I dutifully followed my towering father
as he walked the black soot-like soil
to the secret place where the pussy-willows grew.

Secret, so those coal fields seemed,
at ages five through nine. Those
dystopian mining lands that we ventured to,
sometimes searching for fossils, other times

to clip, carefully, the pussy-willows.
The curved-blade shears weighed
heavy in my oversized coat's pocket,
but our mission was sacred

when we ventured to where the pussy-willows grew
during the weeks and days prior to Easter:
to choose the fullest branches
for Mama's ornate ceramic vase.

My father examined, clipped,
and then placed the branches
in my young arms, and I held
the willows--the "verbas"--tenderly.

As I grow older in my adulthood,
I miss the dismal coal fields
where the pussy-willows thrived.
Our Easters have replaced

the willows with leafy palms,
which die and dry and pale;
eventually the leaves shrivel, crumble,
but I remember how the pussy-willow

remained unwavering, firm
from one Easter to the next,
as they hung behind the icons,
or stood tall in Mama's ornate ceramic vase.

Bio: Nicole Yurcaba hails from a long line of coal miners, Ukrainian immigrants and West Virginian mountain folk. She is an adjunct instructor of English and Developmental Reading, substitute teacher and farm hand hailing from West Virginia. She recently completed her Master of Humanities in English at Tiffin University. Her work has appeared in print and online journals such as VoxPoetica, Referential Magazine, Rolling Thunder Quarterly, Decompression, Hobo Camp Review, The Camel Saloon, Jellyfish Whispers, Napalm and Novocaine, Floyd County Moonshine and many others. In life, she enjoys taking the unbeaten path, and usually exits the scene pursued by bear. Her first collection of poetry, Backwoods and Back Words, is available at


  1. i knew that i could rely on Hobo Camp to revive my flagging love of poetry. so few of my words have fallen into such order lately, i needed this poem to remind me of my own need for art in this overwritten world online. thank you for the springtime booster shot against a long winter dreariness. a fine discovery on the return path.

  2. Moving, Nicole. Simply moving.


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