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Fall 2005

Reading Life Into Stone
: A Centennial for a Coal Town, Windber, Pa
—for all the miners lost in mining shafts
Andrena Zawinski

Late April. Everything late to green.
Picking up speed on 56 East through Cambria,
picking up speed like I'm late for something,
late as this year's spring, late as the last lost
blessings of coal from old Shaeffer's farmland,

blessings of hills of dark angels, their elms
flowering with the wild noise of common finches,
flowering Medusa-headed on the way to the old
mine. Rushing the rain sky to you No. 40,

you ugly dinosaur of rusted bones, sheet metal
shoulders sloping down in woeful groans bent
beneath fresh graffiti: "Henry sucked it here,
give him a buck, he'll blow you, too."

Old winds blow across the tablelands and slopes,
blow coal dust clouds into the eye of spring,
blow shriveled leaves from limbs of long winter,
blow trillium, phlox, and may apple in the blessing
of the given, the blossoming to come. Late April.

Long winter. Early frost violas, consternate
and constant, press through where the woodcutters ax
made way to tunnel in through loam and clay and shale,
to load almost every steamship out of New York,

to lead the coal trade, carve out a town and a living,
to power a nation with industry machine and war--
labor loyal to King Coal, grandfathers and fathers,
labor loyal Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles

in black holes of tunnels foraged like rats for those
black jewels of bituminous backbone broken open,
black as cough and spittle and lungs did become,
black as graveyards snaking quadrants of Windber,

stories in the shafts where ground nesters squawk
postured in their territorial performances. Late April.
stories in the soil I read with sooty fingers and hands
Late dig past beer can, lost shoe, worn trojan rubble,
for a life carved into stone for the dead by the living.

A reverential statue has been erected here.
I have come in late. I have come in here
to watch it talk.