Martha Collins

Movie and Two Little Miners
July 22, 2022 Collins Martha



When I was ten    they took me into a coal mine
I gave a report to our class    that had seen
How Green Was My Valley    a movie set in Wales


The miners had lamps    like my grandfather’s
lamps    & I never forgot    the whistle    explosion
the father    trapped & killed but    I had forgotten


the wage cuts    the strike    the lost jobs
the emigration    to countries    like our own





Two Little Miners standing on
the Little Golden Book cover


one white and one black
they smile at each other


Like the integrated miners
union . . . oh but look inside:


They wake up clean as snow but
by night they’ve turned black


black as soot, night, a crow,
black as black, coal black


Back home (they live alone but
someone’s fixed their supper):


Two little miners / Black as night
Scrub in your tub / Until you’re white

Martha Collins’s eleventh volume of poetry is Casualty Reports (Pittsburgh, 2022); her tenth, Because What Else Could I Do (Pittsburgh, 2019), won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. Her fifth volume of co-translated Vietnamese poetry is Dreaming the Mountain by Tuệ Sỹ, with Nguyen Ba Chung (Milkweed, 2023).  Collins founded the U.Mass. Boston creative writing program and taught at Oberlin College for ten years.