The Colliery

The editing of Cold Dusters is taking longer than I anticipated thanks to demands on my time with various research studies, people who need to talk with me & of course those phone callers who don’t think to say – can you talk – but launch into their important issues. Or if they ask & I say I’m editing – they then launch into their important issues. Writing or editing = doing nothing.

But it has been getting done & I hope to have the first 100 or so pages finished by the end of the month. I’ve made at least one name change. Two of my characters had far too similar last names: McDonnell vs O’Dowell. For readers this can be more confusing than a Russian novel in which characters have real names, nick names & proper names. So one of them became Nelson. Find & replace did the job. Naming is crucial for me & gives a sense of the person & in Dusters also a sense of the times.

I researched popular women names in the early 1900. There’ll be no Tiffanys in the book. Men’s names were easier though I did make up one ‘Birk’ for my hero. His pal ‘Clancy’ – that’s one of those names that has a clear sense of person behind it. Last names I took from lists of miners the were working in the mines in the 1920’s.

The same holds true for place names. The town were the story takes place is imaginary though the layout is real to small towns of the location & time. I tried not to place it too specifically but near the real places there. New Waterford, North Sydney & Sydney – real places that I did have to make sure I used actual street names for.

I’ve resisted sticking to historical facts or even how coal mining was done at the time. This isn’t a documentary but I have made things plausible. There were a couple of bitter strikes between the wars but I decided to import events from one into the other. As one of my writing friends says – never let history get in the way of a good story 🙂

I also am not letting the lack of history get in the way of a good story either. Did coal miners fall in love with one another? That history doesn’t exist.

here’s the piece of mine that was the inspiration for Coal Dusters. It’s my Brown Betty chap book. (line spacing forced on me by WP

The Colliery

while white sun simmers ocean’s edge

we enter the colliery

follow the guide

metal basket jostles us down down

smell coal seeping ocean

light becomes dark    then black

thin beams from helmet lamps
graze without illuminating faces   arms
fire fly flash of teeth   tongue
as the guide’s words roll out over echoless drips

a silence that stifles our breathing
the chilled walls absorb everything
wooden struts hold the earth from us
coal buffering the echo of our shuffle
as we crouch lower to fit
tiny lamp light glances off rock surfaces
jagged caroms of cold flashes
was that a face   an arm
embedded between strata of earth
a zig-zag white trace
slipping in the endless squeeze

from above below

the passage narrowing even more
as we scrabble along hunched crabs
feel the ground   hope for traction

ache to stand but can’t

air thicker presses on all sides
can these wooden splints keep us safe

a pressure in the lungs
the scatter of the fear

s this the way I want to go
squished in a tremble of tectonic plates
hugged by the earth’s crust
we turn a corner catch our breath
the guide filling in gaps
stunned that so many men
spent their lives down here
ate slept shivered exited eventually
to return day after day
did they dare seek comfort

in one another’s arms

we shiver from black

to dark

to light
brought to the surface   to life    to summer

where heavy clouds have formed
lightning races the horizon
rumble of thick thunder
blanket of rain falls
to wash us clean of the abyss
we never have to return to

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

April 6, Friday – Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam Slam Season 4 finals: 8 pm Buddies In Bad Times Theatre


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June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) capfireslam.org 
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