Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Poem of the Week: Heather Davis

29 Men

“If any of you have been asked by your group president, supervisors, engineers, or anyone else to do anything other than run coal, you need to ignore them and run coal.”

--Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine

The lights in your home channel 29 men, their

soot stained clothes, last breaths, crystalline sweat

let loose on black rock.

The lamps in your den cast 29 men

from West Virginia to your retinas, making night

like day, closing the circle.

Did the bulbs in their kitchens pop and spark, the floors

revolt when the methane blew, stopping the hearts

of family members for what seemed like hours?

When he left that morning he said, “Love you too, buddy.

Now I’m gonna

Cut me some coal.”

Along with the brilliance in your bedroom you get 29 men

so cheaply it’s like nothing, an easy find

at the second hand store, a keeper.

I heard about Don Blankenship, King of Coal, Massey CEO.

How he made it his crusade to crush the union

so the men could start working 12-hour shifts.

I heard about Don Blankenship, Pied Piper, 1,000 violations

studding his golden belt, how it wasn’t enough, how he

wooed those boys to the precipice like hard used toys.

Your porch light out front floods the yard and sings

29 men, electric lives exuberant, giving everything. Don’t

turn away. This is what we pay for.

They’re not down in the mine anymore.

-Heather Davis

Used by permission.

Heather Davis earned a B.A. in English from Hollins University and an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. She is the author of The Lost Tribe of Us, which won the 2007 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, and Puerto del Sol, among others. She is the founder of the Winding River Writers and a member of DC Poets Against the War. With her husband, the poet Jose Padua, she writes the blog Shenandoah Breakdown about post-city life in conservative small-town America at

Davis appeared on the panel The Care and Feeding of the Rural/Small Town Poet-Activist at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness 2010.

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1 comment:

Appalachia Rising said...

Join us on September 25-7 in Washington, D.C. at Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining. Appalachia Rising is is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia.
Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.

Appalachia Rising will consist of two events. First, the weekend conference, Sept. 25-26, Appalachia Rising, Voices from the Mountains will provide an opportunity to build or join the movement for justice in Appalachia through strategy discussions and share knowledge across regional and generational lines. The second event on Monday, Sept.27, is the Appalachia Rising Day of Action which will unify thousands in calling for an end to mountaintop removal and all forms of steep slope surface mining though a vibrant march and rally. An act of dignified non-violent civil disobedience will be possible for those who wish to express themselves by risking arrest.

For more info, visit