Portside Culture

   
 

 

David Salner
April 1, 2015
North American Review
 
"I learned how to fight the long shifts, the bashed fingers," writes poet David Salner of his mining experiences, but he also sees the beauty of sorrow. An appropriate lyric for May Day.
 
 

Abandoned Mine Under Snow
Virginia MN

That first winter I learned how the snow
could whistle through forests of memory,
of popple, of spruce. How the pit of the Rouchleau Mine
looked under snow—a lake of lovely sorrow.

When I got a job in the mines, I stamped the snow off my boots,
ordered doubles of Christian, straight up.
I can see myself, even now, stepping inside
where the heat thawed my beard.

I learned how to fight the long shifts, the bashed fingers,
the orange-white flash of a torch in dark goggles,
the should have, the shouldn’t all night. After Christmas,
after the layoffs, I climbed to the top of a dump,

beautiful in the snow, iridescent—
gazed into the Rouchleau Mine, into the pit
where bent miners once worried, once studied the walls,
where blind mules tramped through haulageways lost in time.

Someone was working beside them, tiny and cold.
He was thinking, how lovely the flakes,
how quickly they drift, how deep
this lake of sorrow, this shift after shift.

David Salner’s writing appears in recent issues of River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Moth (Ireland), and Saranac Review.  His second book is Working Here (Rooster Hill Press, 2010). He worked for 25 years as an iron ore miner, steelworker, general laborer.

 
 
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