The Private Miner Speaks at Last
Stephen Gardner

On this long Thursday he fills his bin
With pile on pile of coal, fat-lighter,
Summer-dried oak and pine. "These hills,"

He says, "these hills provide the fuel
For all my fires." And he takes his pick,
Axe, and shovel, stalking the deepening path
Across the hogback, down to the valley
Where he has overturned the lode
That burns each time, for him, at night:

And, still, this night he unrolls his bag
Before the fire, atop the dust-brown
Bearskin that shows a stitch-line
Hiding his knife's signature. Glass-eyed,
It stares like he does. He hears

The snow drift against his door, filling in
The v's of his roof-joints. He rolls
Himself into the bag. He blows the lamp
To dark. "Amen," he breathes; "such winters
Come too scarce for random lifetimes,
And stay too long to turn us warm again."


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