Winter, 1952, Arden,
He shut his eyes - a happy lad.
Slow warmth spread through his back porch bed.
Boiler men’s lives were not so bad!
He’d earned, fifth form, the thoroughbred
of boilers ’cause he’d kept his head
on lesser jobs - pulled clinkers small,
flushed water feeds, punched tubes and all....
He woke. Could not evoke the dream
that stirred him with such urgency.
Was two A.M., said watch hands’ gleam.
He stretched - snug and warm as could be,
but couldn’t shake himself quite free
this pressing sense that he must rise.
Some dopey dream! He closed his eyes.
How cold was it? He clawed his nails
against his poncho’s inner side,
and scraped off ice, like soft fish scales.
He tossed. Such restlessness! He sighed.
He grabbed his flashlight for a guide,
slid loafers on, swung wide the door
and stepped upon a creaking floor.
The strongest scent of turpentine
pervaded bath and cottage hall!
So hot! A chill went up his spine.
He squatted, palmed the floor and wall.
Hot floor? His dream! A psychic call?
He strode outside and hung a left.
The cellar door was stuck. More heft!
He kicked it open. A dim red glow!
White vapor - turpentine - flowed out
across his flashlight’s feeble throw.
He fought against an instant doubt:
A light-switch spark? Another route?
What if the time it takes to wake
eight sleepers up’s too much to take?
He flipped the switch. Two bulbs went on.
In their dim light he just could see
the whole surreal phenomenon
(his last year’s job): The big Square D
cut-off at the coal bin’s door should be
there still, behind that ladder’s rungs.
With fresh night air he filled his lungs.
Halfway across the packed-clay floor
he tripped and sprawling spilled his air.
He gasped for breath, spit clay, and swore.
Back on his feet, he gripped the Square-
D cut-off - yanked it with a prayer....
Thank God we didn’t blow sky high!
He dropped to clay’s fresh air supply.
On hands and knees with worm’s eye view
he thanked the stoker’s dying whine.
He gazed as the firebox door changed hue
from bright orange-red’s near-molten shine
to graying blue’s most welcome sign....
Pine knots, in stringers and joist beam,
dripped pitch on it - sizzling to steam.
LELAND JAMIESON, a performing arts center manager for most of his working life, is retired and lives in East Hampton, Connecticut, USA. His recent and forthcoming work appears in numerous print journals and poetry
e-zines. He has gathered a number of published formal poems, all with optional streaming audio readings, under the title
Breaking 21st Century Bread.