Ash Alley

I am trying to remember coal dust on my tongue,
and beagles howling after dump trucks,
and wasn’t the moon always sooty above the colliery,
and didn’t the white birch sway,
and didn’t we peel bark to make whistles,
and how many steps were there, twenty-seven
or thirty-five from Main Street up to the Reading Station,
and was it below the Second Street bridge
or just above the foot bridge
where they found the old miner in the creek,
black water washing over his face,
and what was it like to hop a coal train,
hauling ourselves up the handholds above the clank
of steel wheels and couplings, and how far did we ride.
I know there was always coughing
and wasn’t there always someone calling our name.

:: Harry Humes, Underground Singing (2007)

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