William James

working class poetry // punk rock performance

HELL CITY

for the remaining citizens of Centralia, PA


i

Some would say our bodies shook
on the day we met the flames.

It is true that we moved
in the moment, but not through fear –
defiance was the force rattling our limbs.

We built our homes on the refusal to bow.

We fought the earth itself, bit into
hardened clay with our shovels until
our fingers bled, our palms cracked with blisters
and worn.

We dug until our muscles screamed,
and when our fortress emerged from
the emptiness of dirt, we rested our bones
in the setting sun.


ii

This city, this temple in which
our forefathers slept, has become a ghost.

Beneath our feet the earth is burning –
we will not run.


iii

We have anchored our feet
to ground as violent as the surface
of the sun.

Hell bares its teeth, tries to
swallow our children. We tie
lifelines to our wrists and
snatch them from the devil's jaws.

We trained our lungs to breath sulfur.

Where others saw
a cauldron, our eyes
beheld a castle.


iv

In the name of mineral rights
we face eviction. We meet our defeat
at the barrel of a guardsman's gun.


v

This subterranean inferno will reign
for a millennium. It will outlast us all.
When even our bones have become ghosts,

this fire will surely burn. All that remains
will be a portrait of impermanence painted
in burning anthracite and melting snow.

 

[originally published in Heavy Hands Ink]

all site content (c) William James
powered by Squarespace