I have long since forgotten his name
(He was only around for my sophomore year at Dear Old State)
Not that he was ever went by anything but his nickname anyway,
The nom de guerre he’d been fixed with being “The Coal Miner”,
Deriving from his less-than-glamorous field of study
(He was, of all things, a geology major) as well as one heroic drunk
Where, after an evening of funneling a grain-alcohol-and-grapefruit punch,
He brought forth, all Vesuvius-like, dirt, twigs, and some small bits of stone.
Coal Miner was not known as a wildman by any means, though;
Indeed, he was reasonably diligent in his classwork
And maintained his drinking and general decorum within sensible boundaries
Not strictly adhered to by others in our brick warren of doubles and triples.
One perhaps-it’s-truly-Spring day just before finals week,
The Miner went off in an in aberrant and inexplicable rampage,
Replete with wall punching, blood letting, and light bulb annihilation
Which spilled out of the dorm, across the academic commons,
And ended just inches from the Dean of Students himself.
It was the last any of us saw of The Coal Miner
Before he and his sudden disappearance
Rode off together as the stuff of undergraduate legend.
We later heard The Miner’s mother had died suddenly, unaccountably,
Succumbing to an unusual malady that had been misdiagnosed
(To be fair, it was one of those illnesses no small-town Upstate GP
Would have recognized soon enough to make a difference)
And, with her, all his means of support, emotional and otherwise
Vanished like so much ash blown away from the site of some ghastly fire.
To disprove the theory that God only sends us what we can stand,
The college regretted to inform him that they were unable to provide
For the unfortunate contingency at hand, and as such,
His only mildly distinguished academic career was coming to an abrupt end.
We later heard he’d told one of the several professors
Who had proved necessary to wrestle him to the ground
(Thus preventing the Dean’s untimely though likely unlamented end)
That one of the faded, clumsy portraits of long-dead medical directors
Which lined the entranceway corridor of the middling hospital back home
Had actually hissed to him What do you want from us? We’re only men, after all.
(He’d been in the full-blown midst of his shock and grief at the time,
So the possibility of hallucination certainly couldn’t be discounted)
And one of his hall-mates swore he’d seen the shoulders of the founder’s statue
(Heroic bronze figure outside of Waddington Hall smiling benevolently,
Palms upturned, hands offering a bounty of knowledge to all comers)
Actually began to droop a little bit after it had been passed
By a screaming, bloodied, raging Coal Miner,
Though that tale was the handiwork of Tommy Mulligan,
Sodden and given to pure foolishness remarkable even by our standards,
And I later heard The Coal Miner was living in a cabin up near Saranac Lake
Where he had become a stonemason specializing in restoration of headstones
Buffeted by epochs of mountain sleet and Midwest-borne acid rains.