Night Shift at U.S. Steel South Works
He was already sleeping
As they shook cornflakes into bowls
And poured the milk. Whispered.
Reading the notes he always left
Before he left while they were sleeping.
Instructions on life, a book he thought
They’d like, how the roses in the front yard
Were starting to bloom, how much
He loved them.
Notions that filled his head
As he labored in the white-hot pitch
Of the blast furnace. Molten steel.
How once a man fell and was
Incinerated. Nothing left to identify.
He crafted each of them an identification
Bracelet with the heavy links
Of his affection. Each daughter felt
The notes were meant for her alone.
How they tiptoed about the silent house
As he snored. Watched the voiceless TV
Or in good weather played outdoors.
Never bouncing the ball against
The garage door, never teasing the
Springer spaniel into a fit of barking,
Never singing, tap dancing or playing
The piano. Obedient ghosts. Daughters
Of the man of the inked notes, the cursive hand,
Never the one who, awakened, could yell
Like the mill itself in its rabid
Articulation of iron and slag. A man
Striding the floor of a red hell
To render the pure steel of revelation.
* * * * * *
Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review‘s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News,and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 11 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—Dead Horses. FutureCycle has just published her Selected Poems. A chapbook, Bittersweet, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press next winter.