The Choke-Damp

by Sophanny Marin

They call us the choke-damp:
the poison that kills, the poison that
stills any but a pithy last word.
And you, miner-girl, the foreman still calls you that,
(you're all the same to him)
even though you work at the factory
instead of stopping by, like you used to;
instead of stopping in, from 4AM to 5PM
to slither through the cramped space and sit in the dark place
by the hatch the boys crawl through to haul coal.
When they rang the bell, you let them out; when you felt their shadow,
you let them in.

They're gone, those boys, we took them away
after crossing their path in the dark.
When you first heard -- your shift had been done --
they said your brother'd gone missing; not since then down these
shafts have you come.
If you'd just come back, miner-girl, we want you to know --
We stole their life's breath, but we're
also the ghosts who leave those leaf-prints for you,
oh so perfect in the coal.

Sophanny Marin knits when she writes and writes when she knits, by which she means the following: when she's knitting, she has a notepad in her lap, and when she is writing, she has knitting in her lap. Anything else she might be involved with typically incorporates one or the other (and sometimes both), except when she concerns herself with the pomegranate, a devilish fruit that requires she put down both before she can eat the seeds.

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