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13-17



The Hot Water Heater

It was a Robert Frost kind of day:
snowy, dark with deep thinking.
I was hiking up a shallow creek
glazed with ice, a Cabela's-Gore-Tex-booted-foot
occasionally sinking through.
Above me in the flocked tree branches
was a red bird shaking more than snow
upon me. To get to know each other
a little better I wanted to fling stones
at it but they were imbedded in solid ice.
The best I could do
was flip the bird the bird.
The creek twisted up a slight grade
and I crunched along, noting
all winter trees look alike, bare,
even though clothed in diaphanous snow.
There, upon its side, if a cylindrical thing
can have a side, forming a dam,
was a hot water heater, four feet
by two feet, Sears Kenmore, electric,
one-third blue, two-thirds white, lichen-crusted,
a saddle of rust for its cap.
Because I was standing befuddled
in the woods, two miles away from
the nearest logging road, I pondered
the origin of its ownership. Perhaps
it had been jettisoned from a UFO,
or slid from a gaping maw of a cargo plane.
Most likely, it was a hot water heater,
stolen, stashed in the northern Appalachian woods
its would-be owner sitting in a dark
and deep cell, awaiting parole.
A shame, I mused, that this hot water tank
was not standing inside a cozy home
warming someone's dishwater
instead of lying before me
in the cascading ice, the only heat
emanating was that
from the very slow
process of
oxidation.

by Robert E. Petras

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Robert E. Petras often hangs poems and essays on a nail in a tree along the road in front of his house. He is a frequent victim of prank phone calls.