Sunday Poem

Deepwater Horizon

As if by torchlight, I remember the years
I went down to the energy
capital of the world to write for clients
in oil and gas, to follow great engines of commerce,
tax regimes and the audits floating on oceans of credit.
I remember the semi-retired world leaders
showing up in the lobbies, flanked by vigilance,
billionaires on the jumbotrons.
It was that kind of world, impressive, strange,
dead serious but somehow made up
and embraced because
it worked. I would file my stories
of who said what and where we’re going,
and in the evening I would walk to dinner
past luxury gallerias, looking up
at the office towers. They seemed to float like mountains
filled with light, so clean, empty and quiet.
On the third day we reemerged, blinking in sunlight,
sharing cabs to the airport, but I would linger
for an afternoon to look at art,
treasures in a museum built with oil,
the million-dollar abstractions, sepulchers,
one lonely masterpiece and always
the dim chapel next door where I would sit
in peace with the huge, transcendent paintings, so dark
and yet with an unexpected hope, as if
at the end of the world.

That was my job, to explain how some things
work and what they cost, so let me remember
the long drive home at night, thinking,
as we do when we drive through the dark,
how all our computers run on fire,
terminals linked to the server farms burning
with algorithms cooled by the rain,
smartphones embedded
with beads of blood, the networks
alive in a cloud of lightning
charged by the power of crude,
so let me remember,
as if by torchlight, the offshore rig,
the flash and explosion, steel
groaning as the burning platform
drops to its knees, mercy boats
circling, helpless, the columns of fire
ascending in darkness, the images
Shakespearean in grandeur, bodies
of angels floating in water.

Richard Cole
Waxwing Magazine