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Class Trap

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Message Vi Ransel

Class Trap

'tween pale, ravaged hills
of shale and peat
men go down in the mines
to breathe the dust
that kills them there
lying cramped in sulfur brine.

The cold, wet pit
and company store
take men's good, suck their blood,
make them blind.
Naught else but an all-
powerful should makes
a right man go down in a mine.

Go down in a mine
before the sun's light,
lie two shifts
in a black coffin pit.
Not knowing whether
it's day or it's night,
a man must drink to forget.

Stout lets him drink up
his paycheck.
Despair keeps
him down in the mine.
He shuts out the woman,
the children, the rats -
as they run though the walls
where they hide.

Catherine waits
as each woman waits.
Will her man come back up
from the mine?
The white eyes that mourn
in their black-powdered face
make the pennies that keep her alive.

Cracked hands wash worn clothes
and wring out the mine's filth
that clings to their lives.
She scorches her hands on
the flatirons each day, she's
left waiting too long in the fire.

Work never done,
face constant sad,
she coughs and spits
blood from the cold.
The man will demand his supper
each night, then rape her
while she waits to get old.

Times in her mind
she wishes him dead.
he might never then
beat her again.
Her spirit is broken.
It's not him that she hates,
but the mine, what it does to the men.

Fire burning low,
it's late now, and surely
the man must be drunk,
for she's not heard
the mine's bell that tells
of the cave-ins, the floods
and the death.

The knock on her door
stops her heart's
beat.  A foreman
steps in, black with coal.
Though the bell's not rung,
her man's not up.  They search
for him down in that hole.

When they've laid him
on her table to wash,
to close his wide, staring eyes,
she clutches her stomach
for he's ripped off his nails
where he clawed, when he
choked as he died.

She's laid her head
in a greengrey bog,
grateful, no one need doubt.
For each of them was dead
as they lived.  Died
from wanting
to get out.


Based on D.H. Lawrence's three-act play, The Widowing of
Mrs. Holroyd, and both sets of my grandparents' lives.
I never met either of my grandfathers.  One died in a
cave-in, the other in a flood in the Western Pennsylvania
mines.  Some of my earliest memories are of my uncles
roaring into our lane on their motorcycles after working
two shifts in the mines, eyes white as hard-boiled eggs
in their coal black faces.


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Vi Ransel Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).
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