DICK SHLAKMAN, PONY EXPRESS(IONS) STAFF CONTRIBUTOR
Welcome coal dust coated the scrawny
leafless elm, struggling to survive
in a 3 x 5 square of gray earth,
one square for every pair of faded orange brick
row houses. Ten pairs, anchored at the four corners
by identical six-story apartment buildings,
squatted on each side of Montgomery Street,
between Kingston Avenue and Albany Road,
Brooklyn, New York, no zip code.
Filthy snow, piled curbside where the plows
pushed it, could not melt in the January cold.
It was Thursday, and the big truck
rumbled in the alley, pausing ten times
at the spot where the sluice sliced
open the perimeter of each house, and
spewed forth its warming cargo.
Blue-black, glistening lumps over-
spilled the bin, coming to rest on the cellar floor.
I earned a nickel, not voluntarily,
picking up the pieces, restoring
each to the spot where later
it would feed the furnace fire, sacrificed
to boil the water in the slate gray
cast-iron radiators above,
whose hissing was so often heard,
it ceased to be heard.
Last night, I heard it become silent.