Click the play button below to listen to Nancy Holochwost, associate editor, read “Lumps of Coal” by Robert P. Cooke.

Remembering my grandfather

He was ten and drove a team of mules
through the shadows in mine shafts,
pulling a wagonload of coal
that glinted in the carbide light
anchored to his cotton cap.He tells me how the animals were raised in the dark
and he had to punch their sides to keep
them moving and how they would
stop and blink, shuddering,
at the shaft opening,
where the brilliant sun
streamed in too suddenly.Years later, when the local politician came to the door
asking for his vote, he said slowly,
almost inaudibly, through lungs of coal dust,
that the world was too unjust,
and he could bray like a mule, if asked.