Spring 1957 • Vol. XIX No. 2 Poetry |

The Miner

With a mountain on top of him from The first day, he learns not to think Impractically about the place His life depends on. Three hundred feet Down in the dark with its faults and slides, With only a little lamp strapped To his forehead, he gets by heart The shafts lightless as sleeves, the dripping Piles stacked like trestles of cards To hold up the dead weight of stone, and Concentrates on those veins of the darkThat can be used. Even his dreams soon Are untroubled by the oppressive Weight of the earth, and it comes to close Over him every morning like a habit. It may not crush him, but its damps And the long hours cramped in the low seams Will bow him in the end. He learns To recognize his shaft-mates under Their blackened faces, as he must, for Even if he lives to retire And sit in his doorway, bathed By the innocent sun, what he does All his life to keep alive gets into The grain of him, and at last cannot Be washed out, all of it, in this world.

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W. S. Merwin was appointed United States Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in July 2010. He lives, writes, and gardens in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. He has spent the last thirty years planting nineteen acres with over eight hundred species of palm, creating a sustainable forest. The property has recently been turned into a conservancy, the Merwin Conservancy.

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With a mountain on top of him from The first day, he learns not to think Impractically about the place His life depends on. Three hundred feet Down in the […]

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