Coal Comfort

Every day the coal mine.
The eye-dimming pore-jamming
sweat-staining black powder,
the fetid sledgehammer camaraderie,
the steam whistle unshackle signal.
Every night the homecoming.
The snow-white shirt,
the slicked back red hair,
the tenor lilt and trill
with two girls a swirling
blur on cracked linoleum,
the piano jig thawing
the frozen pine timbers.
55 years a miner
blasts black gold
seams deep under the foothills,
feeds 13 kids
and a wife.

Every day the kitchen.
The potato soup porridge,
the denim patch stitches,
the diaper pot simmer,
the Rumpelstiltskin storyteller,
the 60 below forest
the spinet turning frost
into fairyland princesses.
55 years a woman
builds bright home
out of knuckle, knees and skin.

~ Gary Garrison

Gary Garrison is the President of the Edmonton Stroll of Poets Society. For three years he has been a volunteer with the Artist on the Wards program at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and has written many poems for patients and visitors. These poems grew out of experiences people shared with him at the hospital.

“My parents moved 25 times during their first 25 years of marriage, and so I’m fundamentally a nomad. I came to Canada as a draft dodger in 1970, and I’ve lived in Edmonton since 1973. I’m most at home in my own skin, even though, at the age of 60, it’s starting to sag and wrinkle and dry up. I frequently live in my dreams and imagination and memory. They are transitional homes for me, which I carry inside me as a caterpillar carries the thread to spin its own chrysalis.”

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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