“We Take Our Color From The Mines,” “The Sea Was Never A Friend To Us” and “We Are Forced To Face One Another”

Issue 35 by Christopher Watkins

“We Take Our Color From The Mines,” “The Sea Was Never A Friend To Us” and “We Are Forced To Face One Another”

We Take Our Color From The Mines

We take our color from the mines;

A frost of ash atop our coarse dark hair.

With brimstone flecks in the linarite of our eyes,

We see what lies in darkness—

Black holes to hell.

We age too quickly, gray too quickly;

Spackled black throughout the gray,

We are old men before our time.

Our scarlet cheeks,

The queen pink of our brows—

Mere mortuary makeup,

As a rook on its own is a crow.

A crow in a crowd is a rook,

As a collier in the ground

Knows only rope as he goes down;

Jointed fingers curl,

Hydraulic, like the legs

Of a noble false widow with no heartbeat.

The Sea Was Never A Friend To Us

The sea was never a friend to us.

We spent as little of our time

Upon it as we could.

Death was ever-present in the tunnels,

Still, we found solace in their fertile girth.

We were as moths in love with light,

Though born of blackness.

Where the water met the shore,

Such a fury,

Such a crippling wildness—

Sea, and its ferocity,

Frigid animosity.

Beneath the ground was where

Our kind were meant to die.

We could breathe there ‘til we couldn’t.

To the sea, we gave refusal.

We built walls against its chill,

Against its back-breaking wake.

We drew our fish from the rivers,

Wages from the mines,

We defied the angry opulence

In poems of decadent glisten.

Neither God’s repeated wrath,

Nor another crude invasion

Could extract us from the glumness of our labors.

With a mandrill and two fingers

Bare between us,

On pews in disrepair,

We stretched our prayers

From the river to the rim.

We Are Forced To Face One Another

We are forced to face one another

Over rough tables and slumping candles.

Wood warps under silence,

Surfaces buckling like sway-backed cobs.

All that’s left are the great, black chimneys

Uneven at the water like dead matches in the ash

Of a rare night when we speak. You laugh when I speak of leaving,

“If they don’t need you here, they won’t need you there.”

It’s true that I’m old; we were all born this way,

With a knowledge of work, and the dull grief of subsistence.

To take action that speaks loudly is a luxury

Withheld from us by blight.

Flat electric light that stole our ghosts,

Stole our dreams of phantom funerals.

While we work, pianos play themselves.

When we sing, we all face forward.

About the Author

Christopher Watkins

Facebook Twitter Website LinkedIn

Christopher Watkins is Senior Creative Writer at DataVisor. His poems have appeared or are appearing in The Massachusetts Review, Harpur Palate, Hayden's Ferry Review, and more. His debut poetry volume "Short Houses With Wide Porches" was published by Shady Lane Press (a program of The Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence Project). He received his MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from the Stonecoast MFA Program at The University of Southern Maine. Watkins is also an award-winning songwriter with 11 albums released under the name Preacher Boy. His songs have appeared on dozens of albums, as well as in films, TV shows, and commercials.