By Karen Blomain
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Additional resources for Coalseam: Poems from the Anthracite Region
Not a good day's walk above it The meteors burn out in the air to fall Harmless in empty fields, if at all. Before long it practically seemed normal. With its farms on it, and wells of good water, Still cold, that should last us, and our grandchildren. "ALL, THEY SAID, WOULD VENTURE IT TOGETHER" Walam Olum Paul Kelley My father's voice was asking, was wanting to know there was before, they were not the only ones, they were not always here, these people, this land did not always hold them up, they came westward as part of a movement of people from Page 17 eastern coastal cities inland for land from Connecticut New York New Jersey into "The Beautiful Valley" in ones & twos & by the score: Smith, AbbotsPhillip & James Reuben Taylor, Isaac Trip, Howe, Slocums, Fellows, Joseph, Enoch Holmes, Daniel Wademan, Duwain, Von Storch, Obediah Gore, Drinker, Henry, Wurtses, and later, Scrantons, and later still hundreds and thousands more not mentioned nor remembered as the quanta rolled up It was land they were after, at first, when the land was oak, & and pine trees so thick they called the place Dark Hollow, air to breathe, clear water, abundance, space they could spread out in, & put wheat into the land, to make a new beginning or was it soon after, by 1828, it was all different it was coal that brought them here, coal the land was sought for, abundance no longer of the labor the fruit the land yielded profit now in dollars coal to fuel the fires of iron & steel & railroads Industry with a big I Lackawanna Station standing in a wheat field steel tracks & all newness gone to King Coal & the people to mine it & to lay the track, to forge, to work to make industry, machines, imported Page 18 as materials, their many languages used by their employers to keep them apart, these people from Wales, Ireland, Poland, England, Germany, Russia, & Italy the "olde world" come together here which americans & the Lenni Lenape, who were renamed "Delaware" after an English baron, were forced, went quietly, west, & disappeared there, Wissler says the land & the people & the coal & the city a voice asking was wanting to know.
He died soon after and I went to pick slate up in the breaker. I picked my fingers raw, tossing bloody stones aside. Their stones, my blood. At night in my sleep I heard the constant rumble of coal, pouring down the chute between my spread legs. All night my back, my legs and feet ached from the strain of sitting, slumping, hours at a time, braced against falling into the sliding coal. One day my buddy, Ed, he got permission to pee. He was gone a long time, so they went after him. They found him, all right, caught up in the gears that lifted the coal to fall between our legs.
Not since I was a kid working in the mine. Miner, yes. All my life. I started as a door-boy when I was twelve years old. Sat there in the dark hours and hours alone except for rats that sniffed around for my lunch. I had a lamp, yes, but oil was dear and I earned only pennies that I gave over to my mother. I was the oldest boy. There were eight of us: six boys, two girls. Page 29 Three others died as babies. My father, God rest his soul, died when I was ten. He was caught in a cave-in. They brought him home in a wheelbarrow; in a coma.
Coalseam: Poems from the Anthracite Region by Karen Blomain