Man of Coal

Whittney Jones

You must be there, where the road
sinks, where the sign reads bump, uneven
pavement, where the earth has sunk
down over your head.

I feel her move like that, our baby—
sudden, shifting, never
answering the press of my hand.
Is that how the world moves
for you?

I think I hear your voice
there, through the concrete's
cracks, echoing in the bowl
of the potholes, asking
what else is there here?

There were mountains, now
moved to plains. Brown, turned
soil as far as we can see, no
trees, every curled root pulled
free. I've seen the machine.

You bring the coal home
to me in your clothes, the creases
of your skin. I dream we press it
into diamonds between us
and live off the sum

never to be paid back
with bones or blood or the color
of your lungs, their capacity to fill
up, to breathe my name before
sleep when we link hands beneath

the pillows, to tell me of your dreams
outside of the underground, and I ache
to write them into the real, the now.
I'll write the forest back
to life, just ask me.