Fall 1994 • Vol. XVI No. 4 Poetry |

Held

Silent, in the loose-fisted grip of evening, he sits with his infant daughter and makes from his face an exaggerated mask, sorrow or glee, shock, the eyebrows launched toward the hairline, the trenches of the forehead darkening, so that she might learn--following, mimicking--not only correspondence, but a salvaging empathy. And often in the chambers and drift tunnels he gestures with the other miners. Deafened by the strokes of the widow drills, he offers that mime-talk, clear as the bell codes for hoist, for lower. Cheeks drawn, the mouth a tapered egg. Then he turns in the lamplight, sees the tunnels gauzed over with dust, feels his lungs slowly filling, like the gradual filling of rain ponds, and presses the widow drill--named for his absence-- through the blue-black petals of anthracite, through the bones and root-tips, the shale-brindled cradle of the dead and the flowering, as the earth of the earth breaks away. Three thousand feet. Four. His lungs slowly filling.

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