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


Rae Spencer is a writer and veterinarian living in Virginia. Her poetry has appeared online and in print, receiving Pushcart Prize nominations in 2009, 2010, and 2011, as well as a Best of the Net nomination in 2011.