Coal Shards

What Remains

* Image courtesy of the author; all rights reserved

by Rachel Lawhon Powers

This poem is about the loss of my father and the loss of the place I still call home, even though it’s been 30 years since I moved away. Our home in the Greenridge section of Scranton was the first place my parents lived that wasn’t temporary military housing.

We were just another large Irish Catholic family; I was the eleventh child. My twin sister and I came along shortly before my family settled in Northeast Pennsylvania. I measured out my childhood by the Angelus bell, I liked to hide in our expansive old house to read undisturbed, and I regularly joined the gang of neighborhood kids for kickball.

Eventually most of my siblings grew up and moved away. I think each of us always had the sense that there was some place better beyond the horizon.

My family returned to Scranton in April when my father died. For a few days, the house was once again filled with our recollections. Late into the night we talked about our new worries, about our frail mother, and about what life would be like without Dad…

Coal Shards

The space between then and now
Norway maples sprouted into trees
Once roses climbed the fence and peonies nodded
Voilets sprang along the drive

The two Victorian houses share this boundary of trees
Homes ample enough to house servants…with back stairs
And pocket doors, radiators hissing
I gaze at the mountains…and always the urge to move beyond

With my father’s death came the task of
Discarding items from the former coal bins
The wonder of finding shards of anthracite amid the debris of
Discarded picture frames and lawn chairs.

I picked up a shard and then placed it back…it belongs
Here…in the worn cracks of this house edged by invasive maples
Within earshot of the factory whistle
Long silenced


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  1. Catherine Moran Parker · ·

    Lovely poem. Full of love and feelings. I grew up in W/B, Pa. I miss my home town with all it’s goodness and frailties. I am a poet and belong to


    1. Thanks for the feedback, Catherine. If any of your work has relevance to your hometown, we hope you’ll consider submitting it to Anthracite Unite.


  2. What a beautiful poem, rooted in image and memory.


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