Irene, Goodnight: West Virginia Loses A Poet

Irene McKinney- Poet Laureate of West Virginia- died February 4th. She wrote about the blessing and curse of living in a state with an abundance of natural resources. She railed at the idea that life in the Appalachian mountains was pastoral or calm because she knew the isolation and loneliness that rough terrain imposes on the people who live there. We close our show this week with this poem McKinney recorded by our partners at West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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Irene McKinney- Poet Laureate of West Virginia- died February 4th. She wrote about the blessing and curse of living in a state with an abundance of natural resources. She railed at the idea that life in the Appalachian mountains was pastoral or calm because she knew the isolation and loneliness that rough terrain imposes on the people who live there. We close our show this week with this poem McKinney recorded this week, from our partners at West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Twilight in West Virginia. 6 oíclock mine report. Ö
Twilight in West Virginia:
Six O'Clock Mine Report
by: Irene McKinney

Bergoo Mine No. 3 will work: Bergoo Mine
No 3 will work tomorrow. Consol No. 2
will not work: Consol No. 2 will not
work tomorrow.

Green soaks into the dark trees.
The bills go clumped and heavy
over the foxfire veins
at Clinchfield, One-Go, Greenbrier.

At Hardtack and Amity the grit
abrades the skin. The air is thick
above the black leaves, the open mouth
of the shaft. A man with a burning

carbide lamp on his forehead
swings a pick in a narrow corridor
beneath the earth. His eyes flare
white like a horse's, his teeth glint.

From his sleeves of coal, fingers
with black half-moons: he leans
into the tipple, over the coke oven
staining the air red, over the glow

from the rows of fiery eyes at Swago.
Above Slipjohn a six-ton lumbers down
the grade, its windows curtained with soot.
No one is driving.

The roads get lost in the clotted hills,
in the Blue Spruce maze, the red cough,
the Allegheny marl, the sulphur ooze.

The hill-cuts drain; the roads get lost
and drop at the edge of the strip job.
The fires in the mines do not stop burning.