This soil is a vein of stone the company calls blue heron
to indicate its grade—
a bituminous grease in the pleats of eyelines
and thumbnail quick,
in the corners of Eli’s mouth
until everything tastes like the long coal throat of Mine 18,
soil which begins curled tight like an animal
crouched beneath limed rock, like a mole
that burrows under the stonecrop and tickseed germ,
slicking clay and loam. When the camp sleeps, the dust skulks back
into the tipple rivets, into Eli’s eyes brown as a bottle lip.
Above him, miles of black ocean sag.
A day and riverside away from his wife, Eli knows the rain
by whether or not his ankles slap through coalwater,
whether the sludgy drip of soil-seep oils his palm.
And when the earthhush of that shaft struggles to slip from the blue
shale stitched above the carbon, the sound becomes the rasp
of a carpenter bee’s mandibles boring tunnels
into the coal camp porchwood to remove its yellow poplar
grain by grain,
gram by spittled gram.
“Kentucky Rose.” Friends of Acadia Journal. 15.3: (2010): 6. Print.