Black Diamonds Poem by Robert Charles Howard

Black Diamonds

Rating: 2.3


Farmers flocked to Blossburg's mines
    willing their abandoned plows
    to perpetual dust and rain.

Burrowing into the Tioga hills,
    with Keagle picks and sledges,
    they filled their trams with rough cut coal.

Black diamonds - carved for waiting boilers
    of New England mills and trains
    and Pennsylvania's winter stoves.

Brothers, Frank and Asher swung their picks,
    in tunnels deep beneath the hills
    and brushed away the clouds of soot.

Their coughs at first seemed harmless,
    as from nagging colds or flus -
    but deepened as their lungs turned black.

Pain and choking drove them to their beds
    where no medic's art could aid them.
    Then the coroner came to seal their eyes.

A stonecutter's chisel marks their brevity
    on a marble graveyard obelisk
    that pays no homage to their sacrifice.

Sunday, September 16, 2007
Topic(s) of this poem: Mountains
COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Elysabeth Faslund 16 September 2007

Another poignant memoir from the great pen of Robert Howard. Good morning, Robert! You write beautifully on this Sunday morning! ! ! xxElysabeth

1 0 Reply
Alison Cassidy 17 September 2007

This is so good Robert. It's tightly scripted and understated and emotionally powerful. Your black treasure seekers are rich with irony. Thanks for writing their story. love, Allie xxxx

1 0 Reply

You are so erudite. I could read you all day. t x

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Sandra Fowler 25 September 2007

Very powerful and evocative. It is good that someon remembers these brave men. Their story needed to be told. Excellent write, Robert. As Always, Sandra

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Ben Gieske 30 October 2007

Exquisitely matching images and well phrased - leaving a message and sensations not easily forgetten. This poem is very appropriate for Kentucky, especially eastern Kentucky where many men mined the coal deep within the mountains also sealing their fate with black lung, as permanent as the black daimonds they mined.

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Susan Williams 14 March 2016

I like that you took on a different topic. It seems to be a topic that you are very familiar with and that may have given you personal pain for which I am sorry. Farmers across America have stopped farming because it doesn't make them a living or because something more lucrative was found under the ground. I particularly liked the way you used your words- -for example- - . A stonecutter's chisel marks their brevity. Thank you for sharing this piece

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Nalini Hebbar 20 December 2009

unsung heroes...we need to silently thank them every time we use energy of any sort...well conceived and executed

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Chitra - 15 December 2008

Great work, a lustrous poem shining with heartfelt emotions for these brave men who face so many odds

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Melvina Germain 12 April 2008

Fantastic write, I can certainly relate as my uncle Sid was a coal miner. As a child I remember when he came home witha sad face, one of his co-workers died that day while working in the mine, another day home because he lost part of his thumb, another day another death and then the big one came where several miners lost their lives. A very difficult life indeed and you paint a true picture of what the end can bring. I'll be keeping this one as one of my favourites. Melvina

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Sulaiman Mohd Yusof 01 March 2008

We're all an uncut diamonds, depends on how you looked at it.

1 0 Reply
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