76 Tank Farm, Highway 101

They’re gone now,
yet I still want to know
who watched over those drums,
put an ear to their rusted

sides and waited
for the petroleum hush
and strict sound of mass,
for rivets ticking loose.

I want to return
to their inception,
to panel after curved panel
craned into place, the salt-

choked wind touching
every weld, steel flushed
to steel, each bolt and blaze,
and the day laborers’ hands

as they assembled
this town’s only
spiral staircases,
that storybook architecture,

a silver helix wound down
form the vats’ chrome-
lipped edges, the diamond-
hammered pattern

in each step carrying a possible,
beautiful descent.
After stairs, the valves,
hurricane fences, razor wire,

the loading bay and scales.
Someone on scaffolding
stenciled the orange
one-story 76,

the year I was fleshed
into this world. How slowly
they were filled,
and how quietly emptied.

:: Michael McGriff, Dismantling the Hills (Pittsburgh, 2008)

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