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Canary

by Rae Spencer

  • In adulthood, only male canaries sing
  • Caged vocal gems, impermanent and soft
  • Sensitive to the subtlety of mines
  • The first sign, when canaries collapse
  • Birds die faster than men, who escape
  • Leaving bright chips of slag in the dark
  • Carbon, conveniently underground
  • Mute corpses still in their cages
  • The earliest gauges, tiny detectors
  • Experts in the uses of air
  • Averting disaster, unwilling protectors
  • For hard handed sons with heavy lungs
  • Anxious of the braced-up tons
  • Above the coal, miles and miles
  • Of tunnel, echoing with canary song


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