MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVI No. 3
December / January 2004
Financing MIT
Vest to the Faculty
Our New Look
The Search for a New President
Assigning a Final Grade When Some of the Work Has Not Been Completed
Identifying My Father
A Child's Chore
The Laboratory for Nuclear Science
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
LBGT Issues
Trans at the Institute
Making the Most of E-Mail: Popular Services, Recent Changes
OCW as Knight Errant
Individuals Appointed to the Faculty
1985 to Present
Printable Version

MIT Poetry

A Child's Chore

Samuel Jay Keyser

William Barton Rogers, the first president of MIT, died while delivering the
President's Address in 1881. His last words as he lay on the commencement
platform were "bituminous coal."

Each winter month the coal truck
dumped behind our house
like some rough beast
its burden on the ground.

Coal-scuttle and lamp in hand,
I followed snowy prints I'd made the night before
to where the coal man binned the coal.
It was a witch's den.

My eyes made rats of shadow shapes,
my ears, snakes of the wind.
Cursing aloud, I wielded the shovel,
filled the scuttle to its fat, protruding lip

and dragged it to the kitchen.
I crammed the maw of the Arcola stove,
watching as it gobbled coals
like Dante's Satan gobbled souls.

I banked the fire and went to bed.
In the morning I turned a crank dislodging
last night's ashes and lugged the grimy ash box
back along the trampled path for burial.

The bottomless Arcola is long since gone,
melted in an ironmonger's
bigger stove, turned to nails,
or someone's gate.

Its memory has grown cold as well.
Yet when I die, "anthracite"
will be on my lips,
hard, clean, dustless.

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