William Doreski
Blast Furnace, Gary, Indiana

Maybe they're gone: rusted, collapsed,
torn down for scrap. Two decades ago
I counted eight blast furnaces
towering beside the railroad,
bundles of ductwork spliced

with ladders, conveyors, railings,
chimneys big as a steamship's,
lattice of steel girders slanting
at steep angles, and mountains
of coal and ore flanking the tracks.

Behind this monumental complex,
Lake Michigan sprawled in its filth
all the way to Sault Ste. Marie
where the ore ships lazed like pods
of whales. My train had to detour

through this industrial scene
because something had derailed
between Gary and Chicago.
We crept along slowly
as if on all fours. The faces

of steelworkers, grimy and sweating,
peered from the orange-yellow glow
of their industry. I envied
their plain denim purpose,
their hardhats, the showers

they took at the end of the workday.
Now maybe, probably, that row
of blast furnaces has fallen,
the railroad torn up, but the light
on Lake Michigan still gray

as I remember it, the coal and ore
piles scattered on the four winds,
silting the entire continent
with a layer of dust so fine
it doesn't hold my fingerprints.