|Chagrin River Review||
Loomis Breaker, Wilkes-Barre
Nothing uglier than the greenhouse
slab of this structure, hundreds of panes
broken or missing, the thousand
still intact so dusted with coal
they look like many rotten bruises.
The conveyor lurching to the piles
of crushed anthracite looks spindly
as a flicker of spider web.
Below it, a payloader and truck
interact, puny vehicles
to aggress on such a heap.
The lower part of the breaker
is three stories of poured concrete.
I press one hand against it
and feel an ancient earthen cool
simmer through me. At my feet
a pair of discarded tires,
old-fashioned wide whitewalls, relax
in the filth, their working lives done.
This breaker won’t stand here much longer,
the anthracite seams exhausted,
whole villages collapsing
above burning abandoned mines.
As I kick at the treadless old tires
I feel all Pennsylvania
and almost all America
shudder with the secret pleasure
of those slow underground fires.
Grain Elevators, Milwaukee
On the lake stands a cluster
of eight grain elevators, concrete
patched with thick black strokes of tar,
an abstract expressionist statement
chiding pleasure boats docked nearby.
Franz Kline drunker than usual
would have signed this construction
if he’d seen it. I wonder
if the people of Milwaukee
appreciate its vigor and stark
penetration of industrial
pieties, appreciate the way
form overcomes content, forcing
the eye to understand despite
our pictorial expectations.
Maybe the city has torn it down
by now, but in the Seventies
this structure so engaged me
I spent a whole day watching light
slide across its grainy surface,
the huge brush strokes bleeding
at their edges into the gray,
the reflection in the brownish lake
shuddering like an aurora.
I learned so much about painting
that day that I gave it up for good
and went home happy and drank a toast
to Franz Kline and other artists
with visions larger than mine.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.