Poem for Display in an Abandoned Factory

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series Public Poems


Why is there no battlefield memorial
here, where generations of workers
ground down their lives?
Why no place for the veterans to return,
pride mingling with grief,
clutching made-in-China flags
& mumbling about sacrifice?
Why doesn’t the county historical society
raise money to preserve this site just as it was,
before the pink slips came—
a mass unmanning—
& the great steel taskmasters were unbolted
from the shop floor & sold for scrap?
Why doesn’t anyone except us trespassers,
sneaking in like the weeds & sparrows,
want to remember which parts
were assembled here
& where they fit?

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10 Replies to “Poem for Display in an Abandoned Factory”

  1. oh yes. my feeling exactly, every time I snap pictures of the crumbling tanneries over here. I think I’m going to start matching them up with the pictures of the mangled old men and women who worked in them and now wander through the streets for hours on end. Nowhere to go, nothing to do.

    Thanks for this poem, dave.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. That sounds as if it would make a very interesting photo documentary project, if the retired workers are willing.

  3. Have you seen the book, Images of the Rust Belt by James Jeffrey Higgins? It’s a great book that really shows the beauty of the Rust Belt. Also, when I looked at Higgins’ homepage, I found out that he has a new book out titled On Common Ground — which is about “vanishing farms”. I guess I will have to add that book to my “to get list”.

  4. No, I haven’t seen that. If the sample photos are any indication, he has a good mix of subjects. I loved Weirton Steel at Sunrise.

    The old company towns of Pennsylvania and the surrounding states may never have been exactly beautiful, but I’d sure as hell rather look at a few hills covered with row houses – complete with actual stores and sidewalks – than every hill colonized by sprawling subdivisions.

  5. the opening lines of this should be famous, this is a poem like the ones of neruda’s that all the workers (even the illiterate) in chile knew by heart, and were not embarrassed to recite in public. thank you for this.

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