Fifty Years On
Sidewalks filled with laid-off men uneasy with idleness,
Yearning for yesterday, terrified about tomorrow.
Smokeless chimneys stretching toward the sky,
Open hearths cooling longer between heats,
No rumbling of coal trains resounding beneath ridges:
The Valley drastically reduces steel production.
Searching for work, we visit a flat mill town
Punctuating the Illinois prairie, shade trees stretching
Across straight, level streets.
Farewells to classmates heading to Venezuela,
Rejected offers from Down Under and elsewhere,
We pass on the exotic and select Pennsylvania’s other side.
Heading eastward on the Turnpike, but not for vacation,
We listen to different sounds. Our own stand out. Words, also.
Trading buns for rolls, pop for soda,
Dahntahn for Center City, June 1964 is my immigration.
Leaving behind childhood’s things,
Moving parental accumulations
For the first of several journeys,
We carve our individual niches
With varying degrees of success.
Fondness of home remaining,
Reality settling in like humid summer air,
And we accept the best of the new homeland
Gradually blending old and new
Into the people we became.
Almost twenty years later, a University of Chicago
Genius who never sweat a day in his life
Lectures me about what my father should have done.
I suggest he confine his remarks
To whatever he actually knows.
Almost thirty years after that, someone lectures me
On the decline of the American steel industry.
Even though I tell him from where I come,
An orotund explanation still ensues
As I look for another drink.
Arthur Turfa, copyright 2014
For my newer reads!