Johnstown Steel Mills

Johnstown Steel Mills

The vacant Johnstown mills
aren’t sagging dinosaurs,
nor relics of the past;
can’t you see them?
They are bracing athletes –
sprinters kneeling in starting blocks,
waiting for the shot
to light their roaring furnaces
again for a grateful nation.

And while a city waits, we poets
focus on the tender details –
a stone wall leaning inward,
heat lightning in the distance,
the way a dripping ceiling
seems to drum the beginning
of an American anthem.

There is nothing melancholy
in the stillness of a mill,
only anticipation and pride –
call it Johnstown hope,
resilient, silent, and heavy,
always ready
always ready.

Rewind

He was 3 years old when I unloaded,
Flailing my arms like a cinema cliché,
Spanking and reciting…

A smack with eve-ry an-gry syll-a-ble.

It happened all at once – I became like my mother,
as though I were programmed to rerun,
And after… he looked at me like I was a stranger.

That night he flinched when I tucked him in.

For the price of a broken VCR,
I taught him to fear me –
to trust me less than the dog.

Dear Lord, – Rewind.

Momma

Momma had said she was coming,
momma had said he was dear,
momma had lost her way home,
momma had said not to fear.

The words they came to him softly,
the words they came to him light,
the words he slowly recited,
when he lay his head down at night.

The doctors said he was dumb,
his hands were large and kind,
a bump on the head made him slow,
forever with mom on his mind.

Momma had said she was coming,
momma had said he was dear,
momma would never have left me,
in his slow mind this was clear.

Each day would come and go,
each year would pass too quick,
momma she didn’t come back,
maybe his momma got sick.

Toy soldiers and playthings got withered,
his hands were now wrinkled with time,
his reflection went grey and tattered,
then his eyes went clear and blind.

His body grew old and tired,
his mind would always be slow,
the days were now just a burden,
one by one his friends had to go,

He felt for his momma one morning,
his mind finally said he’s alone,
momma would never come back,
momma would never come home.

That night he wept for his momma,
the angels they gathered near,
Momma had said she was coming,
Momma had said he was dear.

Seraph wings carried him lightly,
the way they carry the kind,
angels wiped off his tears,
and cleared the fog from his mind.

A voice cried out to meet him,
a voice he remembered so clear,
Momma is coming my baby,
Momma is coming my dear.

A Bronx Picture

I checked on her this morning,
with hidden happiness,
and a hospice ribbon.

Frank smiled at me – again,
always there… silent… patient –
a smoking volcano.

“It’s almost time Ester”
spilled from my lips,

…paying my promise to tell.

I shrunk aside, waiting,
while their hands embraced,
paper-thin and ashen-white.

He rose, like a mountain,
opening the green bag,
and pulling out the pictures.

Holding out each memory
for her to see, one by one,
fighting his shaky hands.

The dancehall and first house,
marriage, babies, Christmas –
every promise fulfilled.

We’re done here, my love,
wait for me in the park
and she went.