Open Hearth

“A brick saucer, but longer—
works like a kitchen oven
only hotter than the Holocaust,”

he says, and we remember again
how Uncle Dominic fed that furnace
his health and comfort.
The broad sweep of flames
over such raw potential:
his liver and lungs,
Aunt Joanna and the boys,
a molten flow
forced from him
by human gravity and error.
And after this, his combustion, slow
but understandable,
so much like that he had watched daily,
fueled by years of iron men
and machines, black dust and liquor.
“Coils and sheets, billets and strips—
these are the products,”
Dominic says as we listen again
to this end, his heavy slag of tales:
of Aliquippa’s caster,
19 stories tall,
of Republic’s pits and yards—
the great rats are there
that could drag a man’s lunchpail
like easy tin litter,
of three men at J & L who fell
when a catwalk buckled
to the crucible
and how their screams melted,
their faces fused like his memory,
just as tightly as those steel wire
that wrap his rob metal soul.

:: M Lisa Shattuck, in Mahoning Valley Poetry: An Anthology (1993)

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