Underground Singing

It rose out of air holes and off hot slate,
even from the bottom
of the muddy pond where we swam,
and out of dry snakeskins snagged on laurel roots,
our fathers in their knee-high
black rubber boots, faces blue-scarred,
singing to keep the ghosts back
in abandoned tunnels where nothing lived,
where bones of never-rescued miners lay
and ghosts drifted and shimmered,
and sometimes caused slate to clatter
off some miner’s hard hat, or a flare of gas,
our fathers singing in wet cramped places
where they worked on their bellies,
arms and legs moving
as they shoveled coal down a chute,
their singing sometimes a raspy breath
over the top of an empty bottle
or lace curtains rustling at dusk.

:: Harry Humes, Underground Singing (2007)

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