Valerie Gillies

 from  The Balm Well

Under its old fleur-de-lys finial, this evening,
Children at play have placed on the lintel
Their cherry-blossoms and grasses, freshly plucked.
They peer through the padlocked grill at the chamber
Where the rest-level of the water lies at well-top:

They spy its bottle of black cloud, coating
The arch over with bitumen, treacle in a tin.
Strange angel gloss, divine oil-duct,
Streaked with its coal-tar antiseptic,
Glib iridescence curves in blue and purple

Smelling of coal-smoke, hot creosote.
Tar in a pot. See the sides weep the way
Tears run down a human face. The gathering
Balm is breathing through the air
For this is where our nation first struck oil.

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