Robert Charles Howard
Black Diamonds - Poem by Robert Charles Howard
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.
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