I have lived in Pennsylvania a long time. As such, the landscape of this place has worked itself into my brain. This is a landscape of contrasts, the beauty of mountains and the wreck of post-industrialism. For example, the gap in the Blue Mountains through the town of Palmerton is flanked on both sides by mountains denuded from the pollution of the town's zinc company. Another of the places in America where rivers have burned. All through the region you can see it, winding roads, worn down dirty old company towns, the most extreme of which is Centralia, a town destroyed by underground mine fires. A town the state is paying to have steamrolled.
Most people do not think much about areas like this. However, the coal country of Pennsylvania is very interesting. For much of its existence the area was basically an interior-colony. Controlled by companies down to the layout of houses. An area where capitalism dropped like a bomb. Where the future is dictated by forgotten events of the past. To grow up in an area like this is to learn early the arts of alienation. I sing now for all my brothers and sisters, the strangers, the strange, who have learned how to carve out an innerspace of beauty in the midst of this depression. This poem is a fantasy of the future we know in our sleep, a future now beginning to creep into view from the border zone.
hulk of the bare slope.
a mountain is a ridge,
strung out in its chain
that old thing.
concrete sarcophagi lie twisted and broken
their purpose packed up as freight and taken away.
For the trains when they must come
a triple red zone danger run.
they pile the speed on,
to plow through bulwarks of timber and junk
wearing their trash bags
that fade with the track.
a movie crew drops in to film the nothing,
shots of smoke rising at dawn and the evening
deer skeleton in a stream,
a cracked road painted with 4-wheeler rubber
"welcome to hell" "gun town justice"
celebration on the day at the slag
heap when wild dogs
they chew through old cans,
fighting over scraps
the big dog stands apart watching,
starts a ragged breathing
the best boy panics
his squeals attract the pack
abandoning their gear
the crew scatters as the haze blooms
the yowling and barking roars and breaks
around all sides of them.
Those as remain, join with the fucked,
melting like wax,
up the foot-hills
of the new world.