In our old stucco house, coal rattled thinly

down the chute into the small red furnace.

We shoveled it from the pile where the coal

truck dumped its load. Watched it burn

through a tiny metal window with a door,

moved back and forth, our little porthole.


We cut hard wood, too, stacked it in the cellar

in fall, loads of it in Dad’s open pickup.

There are pictures of us posed on a hill

of split logs before we chucked them through

an open window after handing off, chunk

after chunk. A row of kids hauling wood.


Our parents knew we’d made

a float that summer before 3 Mile Island.

“No nukes” had never been a phrase heard

in our tiny river town. We borrowed

a flat bed wagon from our neighbors

who had cows. I think the paper even

took a picture somewhere in their dusty files.


I found it hard to sign the forms

when the gas guys came some years ago.

Marcellus shale my brother read about.

Our father signed the leases for the land.

We held our breath about the water & the site.

But, they cleaned the quarry up when we said

no other place would do. The checks

helped put the girls through college.


Will Dad at 83 put a wind farm

on the ridge? Solar panels on Granny’s

clapboard house? He takes his little cart

out back to bring in wood. The kitchen

stove still burns a little coal. He reads

the news, swears aloud about the president.

Who’s never worked a day in all his life.

Who doesn’t even know to think: coal,

wood, wind, sun. How atoms split, collide?