There is still beauty in this abandoned
steel mill, like the face of an old warrior
on his bier. I imagine I can smell men's
sweat in the morning glories rampant
on the chain link fences and feel the
slick residue of the quenching tanks
between my thumb and forefinger. The
shadows of smokestacks mark the
crumbling pathways trodden by
steelworkers in coveralls and hard hats
at shift change, on their way to pour
molten steel from the furnace into the
ingots that went to war or Wall Street.
There on the long bench by the corrugated
door our grandfathers sat at three in
the morning with their braunschweiger
sandwiches and thermoses of coffee,
sharing visions of the lives their children
would lead, far from the pitiless mills of
eastern Ohio, far from filthy hands and
lungs. How can any of us pass this silent
hulk without stopping to thank them for
such beautiful dreams?
Tom Barlow is an Ohio USA poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in anthologies including They Said (Black Lawrence) and Best New Writing, and journals including Hobart, Temenos, Forklift Ohio, Redivider, Your Daily Poem, and the Stoneboat Literary Journal.