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   c o a l

--- G I L E S   G O O D L A N D

Incendiary and dark, you are petrified, 
the remains of the apple Adam picked.
Coal, my father was your acolyte
hence I look upon you as a grandfather.
Coal, all stone should be like you,
then we could consume so much more.
Coal, you are the colour of a river at dusk.
I looked up and saw a hundred maybe more 
rooks in one tree and as I walked under them 
they flew away screaming and 
coal you are like those rooks as well,
they have flown to the next tree ahead of me.
Coal, are you listening?
Or are they blackbirds? They sound like 
coal being struck with a hammer,
they make a sound like coal splintering.
Coal, I think you have always been my friend.
Iím almost weeping as I say this:
as I walk I see a hospital on the hill.
It is burning electricity, people inside 
blacken and grow hard.
Coal, if you are death is it so bad to be dead?
You are not inert, I turn you to the light,
you shine with aborted diamonds.
Coal, I am descended from a long line of smoke.
When I was 15 I sold you under my fatherís office.
It was the day before the Xmas break,
people came in their lunchtime.
They would push chunks of money into my palm:
keep it, they would say, and I looked at the high window
over the yard. Coal, can anyone think of you 
and sex at the same time, I mean
unless you happen to be burning in a grate behind
a sheepskin rug? To hold you cold coal 
is to know how deeply we have dug.
This is why I think of you as I walk back to my car.
Coal, my car will bore through the night.
Coal, you are base, we are superstructure.
Coal, I donít think you were ever a tree.
I look into you and see dragonfly wings,
facets of self. If you ever swayed 
in the wind and lifted your palms to the sun
and ached for water you can have 
no memory, we must imagine you 
as the dead languages we used. 
They are bedrock, we burn them when we speak.
Coal, I am walking away from you
trying to find my car.
It is somewhere in the dark, in the night.

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