©Marion Post Wolcott (American, 1910-1990) Unemployed Coal Miner’s Daughter Carrying Home Can of Kerosene; Company Housing, Pursglove, Scott’s Run, West Virginia

wooden matchstick

towheaded girl

walking down those tracks

chewing on a wooden matchstick

telling my troubles to the wind

i won’t shed a tear

not one, not today

i have grandma’s shiny dimes

jingling in my pocket

the biggest piece of her big heart

bright as the light on that train

roaring down these rattling tracks

you’re my misty cotton, she says

you’re my little girl

now go

go have fun

be back before your mother gets home

or we’ll both be in trouble

thanks, grandma

i love you


i count the dimes in my mind

two games of pool with my coal miner friends

one peppermint patty for grandma


pool stick



candy or tobacco, the woman asks

as i burst through that wooden door

eying the penny candy

glancing at the cigarettes

and chewing tobacco


here to shoot some pool, i say

tapping a thin dime on that glass counter

one peppermint patty for grandma, please

i’ll get it on my way out

they are fresh from the mines

black faced and dusty

unfiltered cigarettes dangling from lips

i drag a chair toward the men

who wants to play today? I ask


i stand on that vinyl and iron chair

showing off my best shots

shots they taught me

this is a my refuge

my solace

my private hideaway

(only grandma knows)

you’re not allowed there alone, my mom says

every single time she goes into town

leaving me with her mother,

my hero, my guardian angel

i know, mom

i won’t

i grin and glance at grandma

she grins and looks away

our secret


towheaded girl

coal dust on my hands and cheeks

chewing on that matchstick

heart racing

racing to get home before my mom

i stop and lean down

the world is silent, still

railroad tracks rumbling

beneath my tiny feet

taking that matchstick from my mouth

i strike red-and-white sulfur

on black-brown iron rails

stare into that flame

smoke searing my nostrils

wood burning black

down to my fingertips

i blow out the flame


flicking that wooden matchstick

into the creek


i run full-speed to grandma’s house

leap onto that wrap-around porch

fly through that wooden screen door

it slaps behind me

grandma, I’m home!

guess what I got for you?

(she knows but asks)

what did you get me, misty cotton?

i crash into her

wrap my arms around her waist

and stay there for a while

i reach into my pocket


my favorite! she says

i know grandma

i know

safe warm loved protected

not one tear

not today


* With eternal love for my guardian angel, my Grandma, who knew only love and  who spoiled me, kept my secrets and taught me the importance of kindness and the perils of anger unchecked:

“I won’t give up my room in Heaven.” ~ Grandma Bertie Roark

Country Roads by John Denver ©1971