Thursday, April 20, 2017

Working: A poem for May Day in the Upper Cumberland


Troy D. Smith

Coal dust settles on me like black snow
Choking in the darkness
Sweat and soot making grime
Soaking into the clothes
From the company store.
Lint swirls around me, blowing fans
Only moving the heat around
Shirt factory whistle sharp in my ear
Walking through the fallen buttons
Fallen faces, fallen wages
Chunking rocks in muddy fields
Clearing the way for bright leaf dreams
Scent of tobacco curing in faded barns
Splinters from tobacco sticks
Break on callused hands
Grandkids now grown toil away
Stocking shelves, shining floors
Making change at drive-through windows
Everything has changed
Nothing has changed
Driving down from the mountain
Window open to the chill morning air
Watching the people drive to work
Trudging yet hopeful, finding joys
In simple things, finding strength
In Psalms and prayers and Johnny Cash
As the Caney Fork flows slowly by
(fish are biting somewhere)
As pride in labor, and dignity, and humanity
Still manage to take root
And weather the sun, and reach for the sky
Always reaching, always proud,