There is a bear in Miller Yard.
A small teddy bear
Strapped tightly to a brake stick pole.
Little bear is grimy and balding in spots.
But it keeps watch.
As we drove along, we saw the lines of hoppers in the yards.
Empty hoppers that should have been chock full of coal.
Now sitting idle waiting to be moved to busier yards.
And Southwest Virginia watches them go.
It’s the economics of the industry, it’s said.
Sitting on hundreds of years of coal, the miners wait,
Made redundant by natural gas and automation.
For over a hundred years, coal brought good times.
Now, for some, only the opioids do.
There are not enough pages in the Book of the Damned
To inscribe the names of the ones who did all this –
Who took the black and paid no price.
The ones who used bullies and bullets
To keep their dollars squeezed out of lives.
And then pass on to let Great Pharma
Glide in on soft woozy painkillers, legal,
By prescription by the doctors, often desperate
To give their patients some ease and comfort.
Leave it to life to make the bad ones good
And the good ones left with few options
And the poor out there alone;
Just them and the coalmine kudzu.