Coal Mine Fever

May 7, 2009
As the mist lifted from the sleepy town I’d grown up in
the grasshoppers pranced on the dew-laden grass.
The sun was smudgy and fringed at the edges;
its rays were intertwined with the dissipating haze.
I observed through the dusty glass at the townsmen
hauling their chisels and helmets and bodies
across the stirring town to the tunnels of the mine shafts.
Every morning at the crack of dawn
their lanterns were lit before they descended
down their own perilous graves for the day.
And long after sunsets, their skeleton bodies resurfaced to earth
and reassumed their human lives as husbands, fathers, and brothers.
Yet every day, their skin grew darker
with the suspended coal dust settling into a layer
until the creases of their skin tinted grey.
Even with the skin scrubbed crimson, it permanently tinted grey.
And yet every day, their eyes grew duller
with the lure of wealth and desperation devouring their souls
until they were immune to the call, and simply mined to live.
Even when the drills stopped spinning, their minds still spun.

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