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Coal Deliveryman

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Like finding a bar of aluminum wedged in a bull’s jaw. Like discovering in a sea chest a short obsidian head. Like looking through a padlock   and seeing an undeserved dawn. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, was it to see the green truck that with the punctuality   of a sacrament delivered the coal each month. On the slope its strained   heart would announce itself vociferously, at the brink of death, and it   would stop in front of the house as if to deliver the agonizing news of   the fall of Troy. And then a man, wrapped in sacking, would pitch   his cargo, resonant and angular, into an orange-painted crate.

 

Like opening a Bible and finding three leaves of laurel. Like lifting   a stone and remembering someone’s name. Like finding the same   snail again a hundred miles away. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, would it be to find, fifteen years later, the same coal    deliveryman carrying on his trade, bent from the strain, determined   to show the heavens that a man might do that job his entire life, that   he scraped in the mines, that he stole thread from his wife to sew his   sacking, that he dreamed of infinite excavations, of tunnels, and that   they might forgive him for not having done more than that.

Source: Poetry (April 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Coal Deliveryman

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