Shift Change

The t-shirts hang like ghosts
against the coal blackened houses.

How long can anything stay white
in this shadow city, the mine

an open maw to the underworld?
I’ve seen it eat a dozen men

in one day; seen it kill
hundreds more: black lung;

emphysema; the slow
wasting death when one

might prefer the cave-in,
those quick, merciful tons of rock.

I can see him walking home,
knapsack on his back.

Pay day again so there’s
food for a week, maybe

a rabbit caught in the snare.
I cannot say I know him well.

He’s lived here all of his life,
and mine, but there’s a silence

that passes between men
who work in the ground,

an unspokenness where
words must carry no meaning.

William Reichard on Fogged Clarity

William Reichard is the author of four collections of poetry, including Sin Eater (2010) and This Brightness (2007) from Mid-List Press. He lives and works in Saint Paul, MN.