Touring the Mine

Lackawanna Coal Compaany,

Scranton Pennsylvania

For the Miners

Then and Now

Like Disney World, only true.

A tram conveys us

down the earth's dark drop.

Surprised by water and by air,

a rush of bone cold,

we watch the blue light telescope shut.

Hugging the curve

of the shaft's steep grade,

we roll back yards and years

to a place untouched by sun,

unknown to night or noon

or cloud-scutted sky,

only eons of black rock

earths' hull and hammer-

struck walls of oily coal.

Here among the tight-lipped men

our fathers moved in silence,

far from women and their worry,

the clamor of children

who ate their wages

before they'd palmed the scrip.

They split rock in the dark,

loaded it on carts,

a rough-muscled alchemy of stone.

Here heavy and inert

once above the surface

it leapt to light and heat.

They made it so,

shoveled coal to feed the fire

that burnt in every man's cellar.

Digingdown deep

they loosed the life,

bore it up and out into the blue

Where we emerge squinting,

its black smoke still rising

against the killing cold.

I found this poem in a book of poetry called Mine by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell. She's a Catholic poet which is what originally got me to take a look at the book. But this compelling poem is rich with sadness, darkness, light, warmth, cold, and even imbedded in it is a sense of false light, false hope, warmth. Somehow it says something about Advent's darkness, Christmas' consumerist underbelly, and the rich but dark lives of many.


  1. Greetings! I'm not sure how I arrived at your blog or discovered this post, but I'm delighted that I have! Thank you for reading MINE and for your thoughtful words about "Touring the Mine." The connection you make between the poem's theme of light-in-the-darkness and Advent is profound--one I had not made myself but now will not be able to forget. Thank you for this insight into my own work!
    Your blog is delightful. Wishing you joy in your own Writing Ministry,
    Angela Alaimo O'Donnell


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