Friday, November 15, 2013

"Adit" by Hiram McDaniels

The house is empty,
only you breathing
life into its still rooms
here, high in Appalachia, the setting sun
casting long shadows
down in the valleys.
Dinner by seven, a long night ahead.

By candlelight you twirl in time,
feet sweeping constellations across the kitchen floor,
the radio a conspiratory whisper of song
murmured to an audience of one.

Choral ranks of spring peepers
rise and fall, stay constant.
the daylight hum of grasshoppers
is hushed silent in the blackness.
It is a waiting game.
You listen for the door.

He is a flame you keep putting your hand in,
pushing the envelope, waiting to see how long
you can hold on before you burn.
The clock on the wall ticks toward two.

Imagine: a night where he makes it home
before the birds start.

Elsewhere,
the walls are damp, the mine winds
through miles of rock.
A single headlamp beam pierces gloom
and glints off great crevasses in the earth.

He dreams of dinners together,
He dreams of dinners with you.
(He dreams of dinners for three, for four,
small plates and smaller hands.
But he knows his lungs will be black by forty.)

He treads
unstable ground, smells only
coal dust, shale-stone, the drip
of groundwater over the seams.

Pitch here, differing still
from darkness above. The overseer
orders ten cuts by sunrise,
sweating in the heavy air.

He would rather be anywhere else,
your arm in hand, the dance floor,
a Co-cola, your girlish dress.

He will coax the machinery, listen
for the tremble of pine supports,
forecasting danger ahead.
Slurry pools around his ankles.
The radio goes silent, beams and bolts
gritted in the mountain’s teeth,
a great rumble from the gullet of an angry planet.

You will get the notice at five. The locusts
have not started their buzz, keeping mum
in a dawn vigil.
The creek will not run clear that day.
The creek will not run
but for a trickle of mud, the way ahead
blocked off by rockslides on the mountain.

Three knocks
come at the door frame,
your little country house he bought you
with what little country money he had saved.
The radio has been playing static for hours.

You stumble, knee-deep in arbutus, sinking
your palms into dry earth.
Imagine: a life lived with no sunrise.

You are a moth, spiraling dizzily
about an extinguished candle.
You fall
from orbit, singed
and stricken numb with grief.

A crushing weight.
Dinners for one, now and always for one.
The day dawns gray:
His eyes, never again to open,
you, never again to dance.

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