By David Salner 

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.


By Jeanie Tomasko

The End of Dawn

A slant of pink is cradled just below
Your collarbone. It rises slightly when
You breathe, then falls. I kiss this light. I know
It is not mine to keep, but morning’s been

That way, so full of dreams. There was a time
I would have died for wings, but now to watch
You sleep is heaven. I do not want to fly.
The birds outside begin to talk of such

Ideas. Let them have their songs, their flight.
All night it stormed and I awoke to say
My prayers to gods of old—Desire and Light;
That they might change the world so I could stay.

The end of dawn and songs of birds and pain
Are more acute on mornings after rain.

-Originally appeared in The Midwest Quarterly


American Life in Poetry: Column 310


A friend saw a refrigerator magnet that read, PARENTING: THE FIRST 40 YEARS ARE THE HARDEST. And lots of parents, thinking their children have moved on, discover one day that those children are back. Here Marilyn L. Taylor, Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, writes of that.

Home Again, Home Again

The children are back, the children are back—

They’ve come to take refuge, exhale and unpack;

The marriage has faltered, the job has gone bad,

Come open the door for them, Mother and Dad.

The city apartment is leaky and cold,

The landlord lascivious, greedy and old—

The mattress is lumpy, the oven’s encrusted,

The freezer, the fan, and the toilet have rusted.

The company caved, the boss went broke,

The job and the love affair, all up in smoke.

The anguish of loneliness comes as a shock—

O heart in the doldrums, O heart in hock.

And so they return with their piles of possessions,

Their terrified cats and their mournful expressions,

Reclaiming the bedrooms they had in their teens,

Clean towels, warm comforter, glass figurines.

Downstairs in the kitchen the father and mother

Don’t say a word, but they look at each other

As down from the hill comes Jill, comes Jack.

The children are back. The children are back.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Marilyn L. Taylor, whose most recent book of poetry is Going Wrong, Parallel Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from Wisconsin Poets Laureate, Marsh River Editions, 2009, by permission of Marilyn L. Taylor and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.