1 poem

by joseph s. pete

Empire of rust

Wide-eyed kids rode by
those hulking burnt umber steel mills,
those rust-brushed titans,
and thought they were cloud-making factories,
the way those sky-kissing smokestacks billowed
so profligately.

The kids hadn't come across
terms like
sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides.

They didn't know
about cancer incidence rates,
lung development,
and the like.

The kids played around in the confines of
a blinkered Weltanschauung,
kicked around simple beliefs
they carried into adulthood,
like that industry can be paternalistic,
that job security is more than a bedtime story,
that the future can't corrode into scrap and junk,
or that the past means something to faraway suits
who never set foot in the yard,
who never saw firsthand
how errant steel plate
could crush
feeble flesh and brittle bone.

Slick-haired suits never had to see a chiropractor,
and never were so weary from labor that
their enervated arms trembled
as they brushed
a blanket of
pink iron oxide dust
off their decade-old cars
at the end of another soul-draining shift.


Joseph S. Pete

is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, and a frequent guest on his local NPR affiliate. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Chaucer never accomplished. His work has appeared in The Roaring Muse, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, Blue Collar Review, Prairie Winds, and elsewhere. He has twice as many first names as the average writer.