The characters of Diane Gilliam Fisher's poems range from the children, wives, and family of the coal miners, the immigrant works, the company owners and operators, to the news reporters who were brought in to report on the rebellion. One of the most compelling persona poems in the collection tells the life story of an Italian immigrant who came to America with the dream of becoming an expert stonecutter and architect:
At home, in Carrara, Papa he is mastro
di tagliapietra, master stonecutter, maker
of beautiful buildings and bridges. Rich men
they knock on our door, asking licenza
to enter our house, to talk with Papa
about a portico, or a piazza.
Papa he love the stone.
He takes me to see the David, for what
is Michelangelo, he tells me, if not a stonecutter.
La differenza, he says, is that when Papa
sees a stone he sees inside it the face
of a beautiful building. Michelangelo
he sees a beautiful man.
Then he cuts away from the stone
everything that is not David.
Papa wants to come here because America
is a land of beautiful buildings still
hiding in their stones. He believes
be can uncover those buildings,
scoprire la belleza nascosta nella pietra.
When we arrive, he tells the men with the books -- roccia, pietra—and he makes
the motion of hitting the stone. They point
to a train. When the train stops, they give Papa
not a chisel, but a shovel. He shakes his head, no,
no, no—but already we owe for the train.
Papa tries to pay, he goes every day
into the mountain, into the stone. It seals
him in. Sealed in, the men from the company
they tell Mamma the roof it fell, they are sorry.
No survivors, too dangerous to try to bring
the bodies out. The rich men here, they see nothing
in the stone but money. Non c'e nessuno che vede
ill mio papa e gli altri nella pietra. No Michelangelo
here to cut the stone away from the beautiful men.
By using persona characters such as the Italian immigrant in David, Diane Gilliam Fisher conveys in Kettle Bottom the emotional truth of West Virginia's coal mining history.