Glenmary Sister

Falling Rock Warning Sign

by Karen Luke Jackson

for Maureen

Fresh out of high school, a novice in a shortened habit
scoured remote hollers, visited coal camps, argued scrip

was little more than slave wages if miners could only spend it
at the company store, accompanied a teen-age mother

to DC to testify about hunger. One night, on call in those coves,
she rounded a curve as rocks avalanched onto the road.

Boulders would have crushed her
had she not braked, swerved.

Fifty years later, no longer a nun, this grandmother
points out roadside tipples, some abandoned, others groaning.

She protests machines ripping open seams
in a field named Pocahontas. Ridges, more mesa

than mountain top, loom as locomotives
heaped with Wise County coal—blasted chunks

of ancient sunshine—snake through a tunneled gorge;
their load, scabs of black gold, to warm fine new homes.


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