Carol M. Carpenter
Published on: 12/8/2007
at the Methodist Episcopal Church,
Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan, July 31, 2005
My great-grandfather's bones remain
at the bottom of the deepest shaft,
in the farthest tunnel where
Cornish miners once chiseled copper
from the black rock walls
of the Central Mine.
I have come to remember him,
a man I never met,
and other miners
who once walked beneath the earth
in hobnail boots with worn soles.
As the preacher tells
their stories, I listen
for the cadence of their lives,
the lilt of their picks tap-tapping
and the slam of hammer heads
breaking up copper chunks
that fall to the dirt like so many
renegade orange-red suns.
My great-grandfather lost his way,
some say, when he traced the purest,
the richest copper veins to their source,
a place where other men had not been.
Others claim he chose
the underground where fires
fueled his rage
when companies walked away
from the open mouths
of mines and bent men
and all foundations tumbled
onto hard, hard ground.
On the last Sunday in July,
I listen for the silence
of my great-grandfather's pick.