Mudlark No. 60 (2016)

Little Steel

Let us praise Fulgencia Calzada, shot      
in the back of the head. Let us interrogate the bullet. 
Oh, but the strikers threw a rock.

And let us praise Nick Vathias — or Vadios
or Vadlas — gunned down at the door to the strikers’ kitchen:
Excusable homicide.

Praise the Union who took up a collection —  
Calzada’s BB-blasted four-foot cross 
is over near the fence,

though what's become of Vathias’s cross,
so we could check the spelling?
Praise the Erie Street Cemetery

that dips and rises for acres, gray slabs smack-dab 
in front of black marble monuments the size
of mobile homes — a far cry 

from Rose Hill where my father is buried, dead-level 
cow field on the other side of town
where the Great Equalizer has stomped

the graves, heelprinting 
identical flat metal plaques
and pop-up metal vases. 

But behind Erie’s mausoleum, the footstones 
of Section 4 are flanked by lumps and sags. 
Even in death, the worst view

in town — the west border plunging
to rambling, defunct 
Republic Steel.                                                  

So praise Betty — Betty, the furnace 
(and Betty, my best friend in high school) — 
ten million dollars, fired up 

in October 1926, 
“hundreds of steel men in attendance”
gaping like medieval bumpkins

at Reims Cathedral. Big Betty — 
one swell Lady! —
processed 6.5 million tons of iron

before she was banked for the last time
in 1965. 
Razed in 1974.

Praise the girders, the pilings,
the stainless pots and pans, the roller bearings,
the hand rails, the chassis, the gears,

the road signs, the crankshafts, the tankers,
the hulls, the kitchen sinks, the bread knives,
the bed springs, the train tracks,

the lorries, the DC3s — 
Praise steel.
Praise Massillon steel.

Sue D. Burton | Marry in Red
Contents | Mudlark No. 60 (2016)