Tuxedo is a quasi-famous town in Orange County, New York. The town itself is insignificant, but the housing community called Tuxedo Park has gained some notoriety in past years. It has its own Police force, a massive stone fortification, its own school system, grocery stores, etc… It is a haven for wealthy Manhattenites, actors, politicians, and general miserly characters. The town is centered around the train station, filled mostly with New Jersey Transit trains which run quite frequently into Hoboken, New Jersey, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Manhatten.
Between Mansion Ridge and Tuxedo there is a tiny parking lot at the foot of a hill, which leads into a series of rarely used hiking trails. The park is named Indian Trail. From the parking lot a wanderer of the wilderness has two routes to take, which are opposite ends of the same trail. Once embarking on the trail though, the mountain splinters into a half dozen trails. One of these trails is called “The Furnace.”
I was feeling cheeky on a particular weekday in August, so I finally started walking down “The Furnace,” and down is the only way to describe it. The trail beelines to the bottom of the mountain. The path becomes a little muddled once the trail flattens out again, and approaches a small bridge. After the small bridge the trail approaches the steel girder of the highway. The white marks denoting that one is still following the trail appear on the back of the metal, and impossibly, across the asphalt of the highway.
I wondered if someone was playing a cruel hiking joke on me. I decided that if someone was, I would hoist them by their own petard, so I cautiously and desperately scrambled across the highway. From here the white trail markers weaved down the back road of a small housing development, and into the woods behind one of the houses.
The trail then continued into this new forest as if there had been no interruption from the outside world. Eventually the trail, and the entire ground became black and glossy. I soon realized that this was the remnants of coal. A few minutes later I approached a rusted chain link fence. The fence was protecting this:
In Tuxedo a broken furnace smolders,
like a pile of ash molded into the shape of a tree.
Wood braces, straddling the façade
have started their slow decay.
Its surface is pockmarked by missing stones,
chiseled away by age and indifference
A cross of steel poles block the sagging entrance,
a forgotten offering to the gods of industry.
Stones tumble to the dirt in front of me,
and I hear the echoes of boots, of processions like
corduroyed funerals, praying with those
blasted workman’s hands.
black footpaths wind around the base,
raked with shards of coal.
I imagine the stories of the dead,
Spending years piercing the ground,
gathering fuel for this beast, this building.
Only to find themselves shoved,
into the dark rectangles of the Earth’s hunger,
after digging their own graves.
Vast tarps cover the roof, a shroud
the sparrows kneel on to pray,
to chant their hymns to the forest
that overfed a demon until it died.
If this furnace were a history book, it would bleed,
the dark words leaking from chapter to chapter.