Mine America’s Coal by Norman Rockwell


My grandfather worked the coal mines of Wales

so I dig the city’s underground, the conduits and tunnels.

Every day I don my stiff dry uniform and ride

the slow elevator down the shafts of the Upper East Side.

How little does the city know what goes on

among the wires, the pipes, the gunmetal caissons.

The damp gets in your bones and in your lungs

but the paths we make, ease the upper way among

the clamor and when work is done, these warrens become

the silent still catacombs below the city’s high. 

Beneath the noise, the traffic, buildings that scrape the sky

the burrows make the neurons on which the city relies.   

And thanks to Local Union 147 when my shift is done,

I sit up on my roof in the stout bright Brooklyn sun.