Posted by: Lisa | December 6, 2015

Monongah’s Miners

This poem commemorates the December 6, 1907 explosion that killed over 500 men (including my great-grandfather) and boys. May we never forget. This poem won a Third Place Prize from the Poetry Society of Virginia in 2012.  Originally published at Spirit of St. Bart’s.

Monongah’s Miners

Hoping, you bid farewell to the hills
Of the Old Country. Your heart held courage.
You prayed, “Our Father, hallowed
Be Thy Name.” The ship bore more than bodies
Looking for a better life, new miners
Whose clothing and lungs would soon be black.

Blasting for coal made daytime black
As night. Back-breaking work beneath hills
Of West Virginia. Monongah’s miners
Trusted they’d see dawn of a new courageous
Day, have a chance to hug warm bodies
Of wife and kids, welcome the next hallowed

Sunday. But the bosses held nothing hallowed
(Not St. Nicholas Day) with their hearts black
And cold. Only reputation mattered as bodies
Poured from numbers Six and Eight mines, hills
Overflowed with loved ones. The widows’ courage
And love eclipsed the world of coal mines.

My mother told of you working the mines.
The explosion. Oh, how the story is hallowed
To me! Great-grandpa, I admire your courage.
I stare, drawn in by dusty black-
And-white photos. I travel to those hills
And walk amid graves where, somewhere, your body

Rests. Please hear me: You gave me my body.
You live on in me. Your sacrifice in the mines
Has not been in vain. I gaze upon rolling hills
Where your eyes rested, too. This hallowed
Ground touches my soul. I gasp at the black
Granite monument. Those men, so courageous!

Bless me and help me live always with courage.
We’re eternal souls, I know, not merely mortal bodies.
Coffin upon coffin lined Main Street on that black
Day. Still, I see here houses of today’s miners.
I watch geese taking flight, feeling myself hallowed.
Tears of joy come as I hear laughter on the hills.

Monongah’s miners embodied courage.
Coal blackened their bodies, but never their souls most-hallowed.
Miners know black coal is cradled within green hills.

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