Monday, August 9, 2010
We traveled one mile into the mine on a blind
mule. Red water ran down our ears and
necks, our toes black with coal mud.
Everyone's sweat cooled in rings.
And the man said, rats know when
the rumbling is coming.
We stumped around in the dark, small
flames on our heads.
Upon leaving the mule kicked out
an angry breath.
My great-grandfather was drowned 600
feet down when he discovered an underground
river with his pick and dynamite.
We drove past the tenement house where
my grandmother lived as a child.
Many people were entering and exiting
the house as we watched from across
the street. That can't be good, I said.
A neighbor came out and we told him about grandma.
Oh, yeah, he said. That house is going back on
sale. The guy bought it for 12,000 and wants 20,000
for it! It had last been rehabbed in the seventies,
based on the dark wood paneling and long mirrors we could
see through the screen door. A doll baby and a purple
We are looking for the Lithuanian graveyard, we said.
Do you want the haunted one? We don't know we said.
We were given the wrong directions. My mom woke up
early and went driving and found the Polish graveyard, the German
graveyard, the Irish graveyard, the Ukrainian graveyard
and finally the Lithuanian one, too.
We didn't find our dead because they didn't pay for
"perpetual care" and their head stones must have
been grown over. I picked wildflowers and we drank
cognac. My aunt prayed to St. Antony to help us find
them. A man and his son came up and my uncle asked
him about the other Lithuanian graveyard we had heard about.
He took us there. It was in the woods, grown over with moss
and ferns. The stones were felled by roots. Only the largest
We left. We ate lunch where the Molly Maguires had a secret tunnel.
We saw where they were hanged for being a terrorist sect--
or, to say it another way, for fighting for labor laws for the miners.
We ate chicken wings.
I came home and attended the viewing for Panda. It was a closed
casket because of his self-directed anger. I cried at the horror of it.
His mother came over and thanked me for coming. We hugged for a long minute and
she talked about his smile. I sat down, my ears with the sound of
my pulse. My stomach rolling.