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).