Those who have reason to care
(Their number dwindling by the year,
Not that there were many in the first place)
Simply shrug their shoulders and murmur Act of God, I reckon,
Though to what extent He is culpable has been a subject of debate
For a host of lawyers and preachers for some decades now.
In any case, the town still burns just underneath the surface,
A vein of coal having inexplicably begun to smoke and smolder
Like an ancient woodcut of The Inferno
Spreading toxic gases through any fissure, man-made or otherwise,
Glacial glen or sewer grate, turning the burgh into a no-mans land overnight.
The president of the mine, paternal as ever, promised that the company
Would make things right, and any number of legislators and do-gooders
Were equally insistent that they’d damn well make sure they did,
But there were lawyers and bankruptcies and claims and counter-claims,
And what came of that was much too little and way too late,
The affected and unsecured having moved on
To the mines of Wheeling and Beckley, the mills of Burlington and Haw River,
Or perhaps to tidy trailer courts in Lakeland or Deltona,
Whiling away their days sweating out rosy-fingered ninety-degree dawns
Cursing and swatting at the omnipresent palmetto bugs.
A few hardy (though perhaps crazy is a better word) souls have remained,
Some stubbornly insisting a man’s sovereignty over his own property,
Others banking on an odd scheme involving tour buses
And ghastly papier-mache demons positioned near the most active crevices,
Though the whys and wherefores of convincing folks
To visit a Hell on earth devoid of those diversions
Acting as conveyances to the real thing remain somewhat murky.
Through a quirk in the underground machinations of this conflagration
Which no latter-day Serling would dare submit for our approval,
The most noxious of the flames have moved from the center of town
To a cemetery on a ridge, from which the village appears to be nothing more
Than a child’s collection of doll houses,
A scattering of toy trees and plastic park benches.