Tears flowed like a downpour on a hot summer day. All around, Jennifer could see the wives of the miners in Swift Creek Mine. Earlier that morning, an explosion trapped eight men in the far end of the shaft. Three of Jennifer’s friends were among the women anxiously awaiting their fate.
The siren on top of the tipple sent shrill chills through the little coal patch. At times like this, the whole neighborhood rushed to the mine for word of who the trapped miners might be. Those whose husbands were safe, stayed to give comfort and support.
A red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills of the Monongahela. Jennifer could only wonder when it would be her time to weep; having a husband and son who worked there.
Everyone went silent… as the men were carried out… one by one!
Painting of Coke Ovens and Mine: Dwight L. Roth
Prosery today at d’Verse: Lillian gave us the challenge to write a flash fiction of exactly 144 words that includes a given line from Carl Sandburg’s poem, Jazzy Fantasia . The line I included was A red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills… This story comes from memories of my childhood in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Many lives were lost in the coal mining industry that supported our steel mills in Pittsburgh at the time.
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If someone could slice through the layers of your life
I wonder what they’d find
Foundations layers of love and affection
Or layers of anger hate poverty and want
Sedimentary layers of good things that happened
Layers that can be shaped and formed into objects of beauty
Metamorphic layers born of life’s heat and pressure
Leaving marbled layers of the past forever fused on its face
Diamonds and gems over time become cherished beauty
Polished on many facets by love and care that came after
Igneous layers of fuming emotion exploding out of control
Seething from deep within expelled by injustices done
Revealing the hard times that shape and mold
Cooling slowly forming geodes of hidden crystals
Yes the layers in our soul are just like those in the rocks
Formed over millions of years of molding and change
Layers giving us character and value as we age
Photos: Dwight L. Roth
Coal mining is a deadly occupation. Many men have died in the mines while digging coal out of the ground. Explosions of deadly methane gas have occurred many times over the years. When I was very young our coal mining community lost over thirty men to an explosion in the Robina Mine in Green County, Pennsylvania. It was a sad day for all of us. Yet men still go down into the mine shafts every day bringing out the coal. The painting was done by a coal miner who rose through the ranks to become head of the Mine Workers Union. He was a poet and a painter. Check out his work at the end of this poem.
Coal Miner’s Fate
Digging in the dark dusty earth
Coming home every day
Covered in black dust head to toe
Only to turn around and do it all again
Spending a lifetime digging in the earth
Only to spend an eternity there as well
Lost forever in the dust and methane
That explosion sealed his fate
Never again to be found
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes
But, then again we all knew
It was just a matter of time
Tomorrow we’ll do it all over again
Is the money worth the pain?
Painting by John Minnich “Jock” Wilson aka. The Coal Miners Poet
Check out his Facebook Page and poetry….