By A.F. Popper

This was the mine

Gray mud and bent tracks.

Here at Ingashaw,

Anthracite launched sideways

While my brother lay in smoke.


That concussive morning

With volleys and terror barking,

China shaken to shard, then dust,

As the great bells summoned.


To the mine!

The soul priest, the sole priest,

Downed his wine,

Velvet flapping, sweating, wheezing:

To the mine!

Bearer of the Word.


I could immerse, sublime in the Testament.

I, called with a calling,

I, heaven’s minion,

Heroic valet to the Lord.

I, absolution, guiding

The Spirit’s scared lantern,

Conduit of holy justice.


Blunt dilution of adolescence,

Prompt demise of priestly aspirations,

Involved my one-armed brother,

Beloved former miner,

Worshiped, sinned, and walked alone,

Walked the hill

On Ingashaw’s anniversary.


Leapt to join those departed,

His final descent

Our faith forsworn,

His act, my liberation.


Andrew Frederic Popper has taught at American University, Washington College of Law for the last three decades. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 University Scholar/Teacher of the Year.  He is the author of more than 100 published novels, casebooks, articles, papers, poems, and public documents.

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