In search of story

May 31.22: Coping, but barely



ground coal,

ash and lung gravel

paid the bills.

Grandpa wore it home

to match the grit

on windowsills.

His worker’s cap

marked him:

social scrap,


tall, thin,

Cassius on the trolley,

morning, evening,


with other scraps

hollow, rusted.


when there was meat,

he would get it

because he wore the cap,

carried the big black lunchbox

with the rounded top

and thick strap.

When we rode past

the fiery black mill,

we said,

Grandpa works there!

with pride.

Not knowing.

He was, I think,


I wonder what he wondered

in this brown, gritty life.



Writing is strange business. I had no intention of trying for another entry in Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors Writing Challenge, but this photo, also Dan’s, wouldn’t leave me alone. It is so reminiscent of where I grew up. Beautiful it wasn’t. Looking at this brought to mind my grandpa and his life there.


Thanks, Dan, for inspiring and challenging us, and for this photo.


13 thoughts on “May 31.22: Coping, but barely

  1. This is a wonderful poem, Maureen. A bit more special since you used y door, and a lot more special because it reminds me of so many of the people I grew up with. Relatives and family members of my friends. I saw these people every day, and often when they would find their way to their preferred local bar.

    Thank you so much for supporting the writing challenge, and for your continued support.

    • So interesting you would say that. Grandpa’s local bar was the pantry. If my brother and I were lucky enough to be invited to dinner, we’d watch the ritual: Grandpa would go right to the whiskey bottle in the pantry and pour himself a shotglass and tell us he needed his “medizin.” And Grandma would always say in a most deprecating way, “Dan!” As though Grandpa were scandalizing us! I was a lot more interested in his giant lunchbox than in his “medizin.”

  2. Lovely poem drenched with the true realities of life. Our grandparents worked hard and it didn’t include air conditioning , a keyboard, or a controller. Happy June, Maureen.

    • Thanks, Judy. Realities indeed. How they would have loved air-conditioning! A happy June to you, too, Judy. May there be good things.

  3. Hi Maureen. I don’t know what’s taken me so long to follow you. I love reading your comments on Judy’s and Dan’s blogs, and have poked around in your blog often. I’m going to blame it on old age!

    So, if you don’t mind that I’m not a blogger myself, I would love to join your followers and put my worthless two cents in.

    I fell in love with this bar as soon as I saw the photo on Dan’s post. I’m glad it found its way to your post and is enjoying a new life with you.

    My grandparents were hard-working no-nonsense people. Both grew up on farms. They were from the “cash and carry” generation. My grandpa’s bar was his living room chair. Lol! My grandma would not have seen any humor in that! 😵‍💫

    Your poem is wonderful! Happy Hump Day

    • Ginger! Hi! I feel as though we’ve met already because I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of your comments and conversations with Judy and Dan. I would be honored to have your two cents! I guess a lot of us who meet in blogdom had grandparents who were hard workers. They were indeed no-nonsense, but they sure knew how to give a kid some fun. I’m glad to hear that this bar resonated with you also; for me, the feel of the image is very nostalgic.

  4. Your story smoothly let us feel the memory of your grandfather and went so well with that door that wouldn’t let you go!

  5. You portray very hard working life – with some benefits! When the coal in the pits in Northern England began to peter out and become uneconomical to mine, the suffering among the coal mining communities was dire, because there was so little alternative work. I remember the long strikes and the harsh way people were treated.

    • Life on the edge is wearing. Interesting you should mention coal mining; the grandma here was born into a coal miner’s family. There can be fewer things in life worse than not knowing how you can feed your children.

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