Appalachian Recovery

The morning news pushes into my head
like an unwanted dream,
slips into my bloodstream with my coffee:

Late last night,
seven bodies were recovered
from a fallen mine.

Grim-faced workers bear them
past the TV cameras,
the darkness of the night
swallowing the darkness of their
coal-stained labor.

I watch waiting families
collapse like the mine walls
while my own family calls out its history:
Lost to the mountains’ greed for man flesh
or dying slowly in black-coughed last days.

Eyewitness News assures me
these seven have been recovered.

Surely their bodies are past recovery,
crushed by the darkness they breathed –
A coal mine’s embrace isn’t meant to resuscitate.

The drama done, the cameras turn away.
My coffee cold, I see ghosted images of
families, carrying their terrible burden
to a small graveyard on a hill,
beneath sheltering hickories
and purple nettles
(beautiful
and dangerous),
to re-cover them one last time.

copyright © Kate Helper 2005, 2015

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