Saturday, April 10, 2010

Upper Big Branch (Poem)

Upper Big Branch

If anything happens to me,
I will be looking down from heaven.
~ Josh Napper, 25✝

A vein of love runs deep as a vein of coal.

They're both below the surface.
They both take time to expose.

A vein of love you can feel
when its pulse-beat's strong.

You need light to see a vein of coal,
and a pick to chip at it till it shatters.

A vein of love gives back when it's given back.
A vein of coal just gets taken and used.

Either way both can scar.

A vein of love mined with sweet talk
and flowers leaves you giddy.

A vein of coal vented wrong
leaves you dead.

Gas explodes, combustible dust rises.

Today's count stands:
Four plus twenty-five.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

✝ An excerpt from a note that Napper is thought to have been written Easter weekend. 

Two men survived the April 8, 2010, explosion in Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. Napper, engaged to be married, died, as did 28 others, among them**:

✝ Carl Acord, 52, a six-footer called "Pee Wee", father of two, grandfather of two

✝ Jason Atkins, married at 23 in 2008, born and grew up near the mine he died in

✝ Robert E. Clark, 41, had been born again his pastor said

✝ Cory Davis, 20, worked with his father and cousin Timmy Davis Jr. at the Massey mine

✝ Timmy Davis Sr., hunter and fisher, uncle of Cory

✝ Steve Harrah, 40, known as "Smiley", on his way out when the mine exploded

✝ William R. Lynch, 59, in the mines more than 30 years, also a coach and teacher

✝ Howard "Boone" Payne, a 50-ish red-headed "gentle giant"

✝ Gary Quarles, 33, mined since he was 19, devoted husband, father of two

✝ Deward Scott, 58, 21 years in the mines, taught his wife bow-hunting

✝ Benny R. Willingham, 61, five weeks from retirement, known for his random acts of kindness

** These few and mundane details can be learned by reading various news accounts of the mining disaster. As of today, April 10, 2010, a full list of the dead has not been released. A recent AP news story is here.


Anonymous said...

thank you, maureen.

family and friends in the deep mines of southern illinois.

i like the way that this list makes the people more real to be remembered and thought of.

Anonymous said...

This is a painful but beautiful tribute Maureen.

sarah said...

it is such a tragedy what happened. how lovely of you to have written about these men in such a heart-full way.

Paul C said...

'A vein of love runs deep as a vein of coal.' Moving exploration of this image.

Sandra Heska King said...

Beautiful, Maureen. Thank you.

Louise Gallagher said...

It seems impossible that as I sit on a sunny afternoon on the other side of the country, men have died, women mourn and children are without their fathers.

Thank you Maureen for bringin such poignant beauty and heart to such a sad and tragic event.

Thank you for remembering.

S. Etole said...

a silent thank you ...

Beth said...

I live in the part of southeastern Ohio that feeds such mines as this one with workers. I didn't know these men, but I know of men like them.
Thank you for the powerful imagery and tribute.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

This is a very beautiful poem, Maureen. It makes me think hard about the idea of the vein of love in particular: what a powerful, resonant image. i was watching some of the hearses this morning and you could feel the love billowing from grief. Coal is a lump in the throat; love's veins bear no lethality. You might get a series of meditations on this; your heart is full and born up by your giftedness. xxj