Deepwater Horizon

Richard Cole

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.


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