John Challis

To a Coal-fired Power Station

Daily, you wake up to fire up the furnace
  to burn and to steam for us, who believe
but hardly dare show it – praying in private
  as we blush into mirrors, drying our hair
with breath from your sockets,
  speaking on phones, you listening in
and watching through eyes of the filaments.
  You are always there, the church no one visits.

They’d rather scorn your hard appearance.
  A brutal eyesore. A functional ruin.
Pamphlets are written and passed on the campus.
  Speeches given on high streets, in halls.
Some, camped on the slagheaps, protest.
  They want to see your cooling towers
fold inwards and fall into open sinkholes.
  When the picture’s big enough, Parliament speaks.

In Yorkshire, I can see you for miles,
  you concrete pig, fattened on coal,
on your back kicking your stubby trotters.
  If you were suddenly granted life, would you rise
to level Northumberland wind farms,
  to trample the fields of solar panels
so fiercely the Earth trembles to bring
  nuclear meltdown across the meadows?

In a dream I had, we queued outside,
  and when you began to throw up the smoke
we came in to give our confessions
  by throwing ourselves onto the flames
as a renewable biomass. I woke up sweating
  before you recast our flesh in the form
of yourself and installed on our mantelpieces’
  shrines we could never ignore.

On clear days I’ve taken your portrait,
  your majestically rising staircase of steam,
and shared it online to a hundred likes.
  When you are gone, like the mines
we have flooded, and are only a pile of rubble,
  we’ll fondly remember the look that you gave,
colossally Roman; a wound in the land
  scabbed-over and cut off to keep the country alive.

Your plume seeps out like a net that catches
  the towns that will never escape the shadow
you hang over them like an oil spill.
  And once we have sacked and pillaged the temple,
striped it of assets and sold off the plot,
  there’ll be something of you left in the soil.
Plague ground we cannot forget; the price
  we paid for our world with the world’s blood.

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer