Guest Poet Mark A. Mullen

Big Steel

Acrid fumes of red and black and white
Piped to heaven thrusooty stacks in rows.
Glows of orange pockmark the black night sky.
Heats are being tapped in open hearths.
The thick air tastes metallic and why not?
Our food is steel.

Ingots and bars, sheetpacks, billets and blooms
Get rolled and soaled and pickled and annealed.
And men get hot and tired and worn and old
In black work clothes with red bandannas tied
Around their sweating heads. (They're Democrats)
We dress for steel.

The cranes roar by on tracks and ring their bells
Saying "Look up, lad. I'm passing overhead
With steel enough to crush you. Makes you think,
But not for long. It's lunchtime. Grab your pail.
Sandwich and pudding. Coffee and gritty sand.
We live with steel.

The Polack with the grin and soaked black shirt, 
Opens sheetpacks with steel shoeplate and tongs.
They say he makes more than some foremen do.
He'll tell you "Sure, but I do more work." then laugh.
He'll spend it fast and loud when this turn ends.
He'll die in steel.

July, 2000

Mark A. Mullen's Questions:

1. Is this poem worth anything?

2. The poem uses terminology esoteric to the steel industry. Does this make it confusing or realistic?

3. Is blank verse a good structure for the poem?

4. Does the imagery become meaningful?

Thank you for any comments you would care to send me.

The Albany Poetry Workshop