Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boiled Potato Blues by Kathleen Kramer

With a musician’s ear for rhythm and a painter’s eye for detail, Kathleen Kramer writes of family, home, and the world of Pennsylvania’s coal mining country. Reaching back three generations, she writes of ordinary people living in extraordinarily difficult times, telling stories that are in turn humorous, tender, tragic, and miraculous.

“Kathleen Kramer has written with such compassion and grace, gratitude and praise, healing and forgiveness that her lyric poems become story songs of reverence, devotion, and prayer — poems both ballad and hymn.”
-- from the introduction by Mary Beth O'Connor

ISBN 0-9798112-4-4
92 pages

from Boiled Potato Blues


He lifts the corner of the curtain, tucks
it up. Even on moonless nights, the triangle
of pale light helps him breathe. Day after day

in the drift mine, the carbide lamp on his cap
casts its pallid circle on the sweating veins
of coal. He breathes high in his chest, hopes

the black dust won’t clog his lungs,
stiffen them like an old leather bellows,
send him, like his father, to the stool beside

the stove, unable to work or walk
to the mailbox. In the night, he wakes, stares
at the bedroom ceiling, looming low

in the feeble light from the turned-back curtain.
That deep grumble—is it thunder? Or the groan
of the mine roof after he’s pulled the timbers,

hurrying to load the last of the exhausted vein,
push the coal car out to the tipple before the roof
falls, seals him in, without even a triangle of light.