By David SalnerWORKING HERE
People who don’t work here
would never dream
what it takes to make iron.
That’s what we said at Eveleth Mines.
We walked a mile of coal-belts
to the tipping point, stared seven-stories down
into a shaft of air suffused with coal,
into the softness of slaked air.
On kiln patrol, marbles of iron
tumbled in a yellow ooze. The heat of hell
turned inches from our heads.
Then we paced a grate the size of a football field
to check each Atlas bearing
with something like a stethoscope
and listen for a telltale scratch
in the forever rolling of the world.
Or, we watched magnetic separators,
the red cones churning through a river
of gray ore. In the West Pit,
we climbed a ladder two stories high
to enter the cab of a loader. The bucket
brushed boulders of ore. It was a finger-flick.
But something about the crusher bothered us.
All over Northern Minnesota, it kept the earth awake,
shift after shift—until they shut it down,
and the whole expanse of grinding and breaking
ground to a halt. Then, everything was quiet
as an April snow. In all the bars,
the distant chatter of people, a sort of silence.
Rumors they’d be calling back
to Eveleth Mines. Rumors, then more silence.
Think back to the noisy world we kept alive
when we did things you’d never dream.
That’s what it took to make iron.
-from Working Here (Rooster Hill Press ) by David Salner. Originally appeared in Poet Lore.