Elegy for Farmington

November 20 marks the 54th Anniversary of the Farmington Mining Disaster. I am reposting in honor of miners and families who died, survived, and who still grieve.

An Elegy for Farmington
November 20, 1968

There were ninety-nine miners who tried
In the Consol Number 9
To earn their wage, punch the clock
Ride the slope, pick the rock,
Descend into the invisible fog
Released by the pile of Gog.*
Ninety-nine miners who worked inside
The Consol Number 9.

On the 20th day of November
The cold and the damp and the weather
Pushed the air down
To hang heavy inside
The Consol Number 9.

A blast shook the earth
As the third shift worked
Ignited the depths of the mine,
Trapped seventy-eight miners,
Farmington’s pride,
In the Consol Number 9.

Rescuers searched while their families prayed
Only 21 made it alive.
For a week they worked trying to find
The miners who were trapped inside.
Trapped inside but trapped alive,**
In the Consul Number 9?

Llewellyn belched a hellish smog***
It filled the valley with fog.
To stop the fire, they sealed the mine
With the seventy-eight miners inside
The Fathers and brothers, 
Farmington’s pride,
In the Consol Number 9.

To this day, the families remember
That cold 20th day of November
The seventy-eight miners we worked beside,
The nineteen whom we never did find,
Our friends, our fathers, the brothers who died
In the Consol Number 9.

*A mine’s Gog Pile is the coal mining rock refuse which may release hazardous methane gas.
**Though many held out hope that miners would be found alive, after the initial blasts not many felt any would have survived.
***Llewellyn is the mine shaft where the explosion exited.

1. Number 1 fan shaft James Matish
2. Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
3. Rescue crew entering the mine, from NMHSA
4. Miners rescued by a bucket photo by Bob Campione
5. Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
6. Coal miner testing for methane gas photo by John Brock
7. From an article on 49th anniversary of the disaster by Brittany Murray/MetroNews

© Randall Edwards 2021

Eye to Eye

The Poetry Pub’s Day 13, prompt was “eye contact.” Here’s my response to the prompt, and it is offered in light of the fact that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

The poem is a recollection of the day my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas and leaves the individual insulin dependent. For many years it was called Juvenile Diabetes because the disease most often manifest in children.

Our daughter was seven when she was diagnosed. Here’s a picture of her in the ER awaiting admission to the hospital. It was December 7.

I remember that evening in Brenner’s
When I gave you the first shot of thousands
Of doses of insulin. How with
Trembling heart I resolved to see done
What must be done. And you? You braced yourself
To see to what you must do.
Make no mistake it was still a shot 
With alcohol swab and drawn syringe--
A fact that, on me, was not lost.
We looked each in the eye, and we knew
We had to.

I rubbed the spot and pushed the needle in;
Then, finished with fear and pain and tears,
We went to play in the playroom where you
Looked for something special to relieve—
Assuage the painful news of the day.
Your eye fixed on the inflated, plastic
ScoobyDoo Punching Bag and you
Hauled off and beat that bag
As if you had to. That’s when I knew
We saw things eye to eye.

© 2022 Randy Edwards

Still on the Line

Here is a poem based on day five’s November Poem a Day Challenge poetry prompt from The Poetry Pub. The prompt is “telephone.”

Incidentally, November marks the 54 anniversary of Glen Campbell’s release of “Wichita Lineman.” I love what songwriter Jimmy Webb said of his song, “…you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what’s going on inside him, but you don’t. You can’t assume that just because someone’s in a menial job that they don’t have dreams…or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like ‘I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.’ You can’t assume that a man isn’t a poet.”

As the town fevers under the evening 
Autumn sky, “Wichita Lineman” plays 
On the radio. 1968 
Telephones. And I? I find myself 
In the back of the family Pontiac
Where Dad and I wait in the Big Bear
Parking lot, Campbell on the radio,
Mom inside to shop.

In the lineman’s song, 
I first heard word of something I hadn’t
Known I wanted, for what I’d been “searchin’ 
In the sun,” of the need that’s more than want,
And the want that’s for all time.

In that ’68 November, Longing
Called, singing in the wire, And like 
the Wichita lineman, I’m still on the line. 

© Randall Edwards 2022

When Reveille Sounds

A sestina for Armistice Day.

Red for poppies which in fields bloom
Midst the death and blood of bodies strewn;
Brown for the dirt, the trenches which flood
And fill with muck and mud and blood;
Black descends on me in death
Light fades, night falls with fleeting breath.

The earth exhales a gasping breath
As red from wounds like flowers bloom
In Flanders where life bleeds to death;
Men as seeds broadcast and strewn
Who dying cry for Mum and blood—
A swelling call as tide to flood.

The autumn rain fills fields to flood
The trenches with muck, choke the breath,
Of living land now browned with blood—
Once waved with wheat, flowered in bloom,
Now torn and ripped with metal strewn—
A splintered world of rusting death.

Assigned, resigned to our own death
O’er the top pour, a fodder in flood
‘Cross no man's land with craters strewn,
Shells scream, feet pound with desperate breath,
A hope forlorn in national bloom
Necessity’s gift: life and blood.

This band of brothers bound in blood,
Blacked by powder, smeared with death,
Shelter 'neath shells which burst and bloom,
The crack and fire, the roaring flood,
Explosion's smell, sulfuric breath,
Hope littered, wasted, cast off, strewn.

In whitened rows no longer strewn
Red sprinkles the field as blood
Which waves and swells blown by breath;
In Ypres’, now green, valley of death
No brown-clad men gather in flood
To Flanders’ fields where tombstones bloom.

One day the fields shall wind Life’s Breath,
Men as poppies rise tall in bloom,
When Rev’lle sounds the death of death.

Randall Edwards 2022
photo: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rip Tide

Thursday’s Poetry Pub Poem a Day Challenge prompt was “currents.” Here’s my response.

“Only dead fish go with the flow.”
Unless of course, you’re caught in a rip tide
Which means if you fight it, you’re hosed
Don’t you dare swim against it,
You have to ride it out
Angle your escape, and
By the slant of words spoken, bisect it
Swimming askance,
Speaking truth slight
Is sometimes the best way
To turn on the light,
Get out and home alive.

© Randall Edwards 2022
#NovPad #PoPubPAD Challenge hosted by @poetry_pub