The Miner's Lamp

A metal cylinder a foot high,
finned and vented, the middle section glass,
that he carried into the tunnels
before the shift began, to check for gas,
the flame inside the glass turning color
at the least trace of gas,
walking by himself, darkness ahead and behind,
groan and thump of timbered walls and ceiling,
water drip and rats.
Thinking of what?
Pigeons maybe or potato soup and black tea,
of how he was transformed each time
he found no gas, of his wife and children,
or of the tin whistle he liked to play
on his way home across the railroad trestle
over Black Creek, along the dirt road
to our alley, the gate, and him
almost dancing up our back steps,
a man returned again from underground.

:: Harry Humes, Underground Singing (2007)

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