…on the human effects of coal mining and other resource extraction industries:
In a ton of black gold
boring through the fatness of the Blue Ridge
on the Clinchﬁeld freight lines,
three generations are trapped.
The ﬁrst generation talks in
short bursts of emphysemic speech,
trying to stand straight,
coughing quietly while
the second generation
gloriﬁes the ﬁrst,
pretends insomnia when the spastic sleep wheezing comes,
pretends not to see
the third generation
trying to smell puffs of pine and mountain laurel
through coal clots,
seeing black-ﬁlled handkerchiefs as
proof of manhood.
But a widow,
a childless mother,
sits on a crooked porch and
In piles of dust and ungrateful steam,
three generations cough mutely in
the face of Industrial Progress.
© 1993 Lisa J. Parker
(Originally published in ECHOES Magazine*, July/August 1995)
*Echoes published several of Lisa’s poems, including Nine, Windows, Memorial Day 1993, and Progress.