Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Black Gold

This Poem is posted for
Smoldering Fires, Clarence Holbrook Carter, 1904-2000
Columbus Museum of Art

Framed in black and gold, stifling in her blouse
of sweet flowers, sharply creased and sooty.
Her hair washed fresh and tightly bound to show
a dignity and pride she treasures still.

Her eyes a black, like coal; mirrors of the
Soul she tends with prayer and supplication
To her God of hope - and light, and mercy;
She craves sweet rain, fresh breeze to clean the air.

Her child, dressed in sunny yellow, coated
With the soot of black porch boards
He tread on, barefoot, to come to Mother’s
Arms, his feet in folds of dark burnt umber skirt.

Across the tracks where rumbling coal cars roll,
Fires burn perpetually in seams
Of rich black gold, snaking through the mountain,
Smoking mounds of refuse coal abandoned.

A stilllife of America’s old dream:
New vision of a future without oil.
She has more coal than any place on earth.
Change, too, will wear a frame of black and gold.


  1. Your poem reminds me of Goldrush Brides and the arduous lives many of them led according to written accounts. "She craves sweet rain" Ah, that's such lovely phrase. Great work with the prompt.

  2. Beautifully observed and expressed.'A still life of America's old dream' - wonderful!

  3. Great words. You've pictures the times perfectly.

  4. Beautiful response to the prompt-- I love the explicit diction-- packing this poem with the "things" and their nuances from the painting. xxxj

  5. There is something very solid, strong in this granite blocks placed one on top of the other; they will stand for years without the need of any binding agent.

    Thank you for dropping by and leaving a note. I visited The English Laundress and will visit for a more leisurely reading :)


  6. Beautiful... I love the ending!


  7. This is so rich, as rich as the words you use to describe mother, child and coal.

  8. oh very the textures and the point to a possible future as well...we hit $4 a gallon today...ugh...

  9. One could use many adjectives to describe this fine piece of writing. For me it is solid, it is rich and it is strong. Great write.

  10. A lovely piece... fabulous last line.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to visit over at my place. It is a wonderful thing to hear from my visitors.

  11. beautiful poem - I love the line- his feet in folds of dark burnt umber skirt. And the last line too, is so very strong

  12. You painted a beautiful bit of Americana, just as Carter did. Very nice.

  13. "A still life of America's old dream" - what a lovely picture you've painted for us of times gone by. Striking images, skillfully expressed - a piece with texture, much as Carter's image set before it. Well done.

  14. Excellent, thoughtful, timely.

  15. This is one of the few responses to this prompt I've read that actually gave me a different view of the painting, which for some reason, creeped me completely out--it has an android quality to me. But here you've humanized the figures, and put them in a context that makes their rigidity and look of stifled pain meaningful. Excellent use of the "black and gold" language and symbolism, and a well-written, intelligent piece all 'round.

  16. Thank you to all for taking the time to read and comment; can't tell you how much I appreciate your reactions, especially to this prompt which I took on with misgivings. I'm glad I did, since I wasn't aware that the US has the largest supply of "recoverable" coal in the world. Are electric cars, which require coal generated power (for the most part at present)to recharge batteries, a good alternative to gasoline engines? Visit Stafford Ray's blog (see my blog list)for his ideas on the subject. So many questions.

  17. Thanks for a perceptive and thought-provoking poem. You did an amazing job of looking at the details of the photo. Thanks also for visiting my blog.

  18. A wonderful capturing of the painting Ann! :-)

  19. A clear look at where we've been...Wonderful writing.

  20. The great thing about this poem is that it captures an ambivalence and holds it there until there's no way around looking there. As usual, the macroeconomics strut on with giant progressive feat while in the microcosm people get stomped back into the earth. Coal's poison is everywhere here, smoking mountain, the sooty appearance of the subject, the air that can't quite be breathed, the futility of trying to safely raise a child in this hell. Many American dreams are dying. Maybe the dream itself. Maybe then we'll wake up and smell the smoke. - Brendan