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The Coal Globe

It sits by my grandmother's black Bible
on her bedside table with the water glass

that holds her uppers. I sneak in,
having night sweats and insomnia at eleven,

to hear the soft flutter of her breath.
She seems harmless, asleep

beside the glass-trapped scene of a small town
where wagons wait at mud curbs,

and miners hold their buckets under sooty arms
before "Old Logan," mine No. 37.

A black sun locks up the sky. I crouch
in the L-shape of her bed and table,

as if under a protecting arm. Like a small
dream caught in a larger one,

the baseball-sized orb glitters, coal dust
lifting, when I shake it. Sun is sifted

in the narrow street. Again miners' faces
feel light. Horses turn warm brown,

the mineshaft shrinks before bright rays.
What looked like dull hydrants scattered

on walkways become children waiting for fathers
and uncles. Everything's clean, free,

for the second. Then motes begin landing
again, to re-freeze the day under black snow.

Ron Houchin

The Man Who Saws Us in Half
Louisiana State University Press

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