Roads Into Fog

by William Woolfitt

after Kimiko Hahn’s “Mine: a crazy quilt of men from West Virginia”

I cannot see with your eyes, but I let 
your poem’s grainy images take me 
to barstools, coffee, miners, the kitchen 
of Fred Carter, disabled black foreman 
from Fayette County, who organizes 
the black lung movement, never quits. 
There’s Carter in his godfather hat 
and green suit with white stripes—
there, a woman saying her town smells 
like oven cleaner, the plant’s fumes 
give her polyps—there, men waiting for 
x-rays and tanks, the blood gas test. 
Carter says, miners don’t die of natural 
causes in West Virginia. I try to know 
dust that soots and rips the soft air sacs, 
tars blood and spit—that chokes Carter 
as he says the heart gets overworked, 
calls for jailing coal operators who ruin 
miners, the water, the air. I drive icy 
roads through hollers, ribs of rock,
the curves gauzy, the steep asphalt 
busted, the drifts dirty as lungs.


William Woolfitt is the author of three poetry collections: Beauty Strip (Texas Review Press, 2014), Charles of the Desert (Paraclete Press, 2016), and Spring Up Everlasting (Mercer University Press, 2020).