Pennsylvania Anthracite

by Samantha Claire Updegrave

The fish are descendants of the trout stocked downstream, born from eggs carried on the legs of blackbirds, to this desolate place. Her place off the path, over the low side of a boulder, into the woods of the southern slope, above the valley. In this part of the country the water from the pipes runs sulfur, putrid, and the men and the boys were left under the ground, and the trees have all gone to ghosts. She makes her way alone through stands of trees marred by makeshift deer stands, rough hewn scraps nailed into their crotches. She trundles, keeping pace with an invisible companion, somewhere between this world and another, like footsteps finally fallen to bed, the whiskey breathing, the pant then the collapsed snore while the family practices its deaf muteness. She scrambles to the edge of sloughed off earth to peer into crystal blue water pooled at the bottom, catching a glimpse of the impossible fish below. These bootleg mines and caved in places, the unmapped gaps of enticement beckon the daring forward. Inward, to rest her hands on the hard seams of history, of fools gold, waiting to give way under foot or to exhale their poison, and the old whispered warnings no one will find you are true.

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Samantha Claire Updegrave launched her writing career in high school with self-published cut-n'-paste 'zines, and now her work appears in Literary Mama, Bacopa Literary Review, hipMama, and various blogs. She is an urban planner, MFA candidate, and an assistant editor for Soundings Review. When not tethered to a desk, she can be found stomping around Seattle with her little 5-year-old T-Rex. Connect with her on Twitter @scupdegrave and on her web site:


By Bob U on May 15, 2014 19:40 (UTC)

Especially powerful to one for whom this was part of childhood and young in Schuylkill County's southwestern-most anthracite hills. Perhaps the best piece ever on long suppressed experiences and feelings. I will miss some sleep tonight recalling some close calls of my own, with my mother's "no one will find you..." playing over and over. Last line out-does any of John Connolly's, but then, he hasn't experienced this place. John O'Hara wrote volumes about the area but is eclipsed by this single piece. it is little wonder that this area gave rise to Sunday morning pigeon shoots and miners drunk before Sunday morning services. The place of crystal blue water amid so much evidence of past violence done to the earth, is indeed magical known to only a few of the living. There is a book or more in this story.

By Robert Hoffman on May 16, 2014 06:28 (UTC)

this poem is as haunting as the place Samantha describes. I've never been Pennsylvania except to pass through it. well done.

By Terry Cooper on Sep 15, 2014 03:27 (UTC)

Samantha......Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you throughout your next life.
The imprint of this one sits hollowly on this poem and echoes the scream that you seem to holding back....let it rip girl, if it still there......or ever was?
Love you and want to comfort you too!