By: Andy Kerstetter
On a foggy May morning, the only thing that holds
our fourth-grade focus on this field trip to the first
oil well is the promise
of explosions—tectonic grumbling
of acne, crooked glasses and clouded
desires deflect history away
from our minds, the lives and loves
of those carriage-riding oil boomers coming
second to the flame when they shoot the shaken
nitroglycerin, displaying pyrotechnic
methods of unclogging muddy shafts.
On pressing the detonator, we applaud
the red rose blooming hot against
the cotton sky, uncaring or unaware
such splendor spelled failure
for the roughnecks of yore—fires of passion
cooling in the ether, dark seed of livelihood
clenched in stony folds, untapped.
Someday we'd see the intended effect
of all that blasting: sweet swells of tar
shooting up the surface, baptism of potential energy
burning along the rusting years, unstable freight
sparking into the void.
Living and working in Idaho's Rocky Mountains, Andy Kerstetter was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, in whose forests much of his poetry is rooted. He earned a degree in writing in 2010 and has worked as a journalist for newspapers and magazines. His poetry has appeared in Gravitas and Sixfold, and his debut poetry collection, "The Inferno Lessons," is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press.
""Drake's Well, near Titusville in western Pennsylvania, is the site of the first commercial oil well and ensuing oil boom in the United States. The state park there is a regular field trip site for regional students (like me, growing up in nearby Corry in the 90s), most of whom are captivated by the park's educational "nitro show" reenactments, which display the dangers of 19th-century oil workers working with nitroglycerin to try to jump-start the wells--and always end with an explosion when hapless workers mishandle the explosive chemical"