Notes from the Marcellus Shale

Photos by Bill Crandall  /  Poetry by Craig Czury


As with the coal industry of the past, fracking has already begun to change the face and earth rhythms of rural northeastern Pennsylvania. With the advent of Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the Endless Mountains, the vanguard of an enormous energy play has arrived in the hollows, towns, and landscapes of this pastoral region.

Residents watch in a state of conflicting emotions. For some, joy - economic salvation in exchange for allowing drilling on their land. For others, anxiety - as evidence of the environmental problems that can follow becomes clearer.

Poet Craig Czury chronicles the voices of everyday people trying to navigate this divide. Hitchhiking up and down the backroads to gather stories - what he calls ‘thumb notes’ - from gas workers and residents alike, Czury creates a verbal mosaic from shards of conversations.

An industry so pervasive is often, paradoxically, barely visible, innocuous amid the rolling hills. Bill Crandall’s suggestive landscapes quietly convey the power both of what can be seen - the gothic genius loci of the ancient terrain - and infer what cannot: the profound forces at work deep under the surface. His photos also reflect the human landscape, people caught between colossal forces that will affect their fate for generations.

- Kim Crafton

This story has already been written

in the insect trails under bark and stones

in the rippling night glow

and morning chemtrails

in boot soles and tire treads

story underneath the story

as trees be my witness

crawling out of its skin

a map water runs through

At night from the kitchen window

from the back field near the pond

from your truck swerving potholes

your story augers deep

through a tangle of roots

home or far from home

lit by a tower of stars

written in earth and water

with flammable ink

I grew up right down the road from here

the gas was the best thing to happen

They say it messes up the water

but people around here had messed up 

water before they came


I know this one guy who was told to clean out 

the back of one of their tanker trucks

and when he got home 

his hands were all burning

You're a writer aren't you

I'm not supposed to be talking to you.


Yes, but I'm not that kind of writer.


Now there’s a haunting reverberation across

the stubble hay-baled field in oils

mountainous snow birch specter of drill tower

flowering lily pond disemboweled pipe trench

(points out a farm)


Before they signed with the gas

was dirt poor

maybe made 30 thousand a year


Now with two wells on his property,

makes 50 no 100 thousand a month

A woman’s body grows to resemble

the rolling contours of the earth


and a man’s face grows to resemble

her stony crevices


This goes way back

A vision wrought with echoes

Abraham said in both the Bible and Qu’ran

Before the gas came in

there was no change for years and years and years

that’s one thing


It´s beautiful country all around here

but that´s all we got

and they´re tearing it up