The Miner’s Son

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda


                        After Diego Rivera’s Entrada a la mina, 1923


A rooster’s crow swallows what’s left of night.

The lantern I clutch flickers as I enter

the hill’s gashed belly.


I offer a blessing to the underworld, pray

to its ruler.  No need to take chances,

I tell myself, swinging a pick


into rich veins of silver.  The stench

of Devil’s breath fills my lungs.

I cough.  I remember Papá


hovering over my bed and kissing

my forehead.  “Don’t follow me

into the mines,” he warned.


“The fumes will turn your lungs to stone.”

A five-year-old, I squeezed

his hand like a treasure.


At fourteen, I toiled in fields, built up

my muscles until they commanded

crops like rain filaments.


At eighteen, I followed Papá through narrow

streets to the mines, bowed my head

before descending,


each of my brothers heaving a wooden beam

as if carrying the cross of Jesús.

Now, I lean against a rugged wall,


take shallow breaths, tell myself the stale air

won’t harm me.  I stare into darkness,

see again my father slumped


in a corner like a pile of dirt.  This time

he doesn’t speak but floats

toward me, a banner unfurling.


From its seams, water pours over crude,

rough nuggets.  I touch his blackened

fingers, shout his name


into the moonless night as we lift him rung

by rung up the ladder.  His lantern flares

like fire.  Mi padre.  Mi padre.



Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda has published five books of poetry and co-edited two poetry anthologies.  Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including Hispanic Culture Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Mid-American Review, Antioch Review, Passages North, Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry.  She has received five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a Council for Basic Education fellowship award, multiple grants from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award, a Virginia Cultural Laureate Award, four Pushcart nominations, and others.  Carolyn also works as a visual artist.  She served as Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2006-2008.