Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire in the Sky

This poem was recently published in the journal Poet Lore.

The trip from one industrial city to another
took two hours, but as a child, it seemed like forever.
We knew we were getting close to our cousins
when the shallow Ohio hills evolved
into Pennsylvania mountains and out of the
car window there were clusters of railroad tracks,
twisting, converging in a massive puzzle.

We followed the Ohio River, wide and
forbidding in the tiny town that sat
across from the inhospitable steel mills.
In the summer, the dirt falling from
the sky collected in gutters and grew weeds
and grass there and in the winter it blackened
the snow before it touched the earth.

The surrounding sky was perpetually sallow;
neutral from the belching towers
of fire and foul smelling smog.
The filth from the smoke stacks brought
a paycheck to its workers, but caused children
to come in from playing with black hands and
feet and begrimed faces and clothes.

At night I would leave whatever bed I was
sharing with one or two cousins to see
the sky that was lit up orange with the angry
fire that discharged from the mills all night long,
and listen to the howl of the trains
and wonder how anyone could sleep
with this beauty and brilliance outside,

the view at one forbidding and
inviting to innocent eyes.
The flagrant polluting of the earth
was eventually halted and the mills torn down.
The fiery combustive sky dissolved, the jobs lost,
the houses sandblasted of their scorching,
the heavens clarified and colorful,
and the children were clean.

3 comments:

Erin O'Brien said...

Lovely. Thanks, Diane.

Jamie said...

As one of the cousins you came to visit, I can appreciate your wonderful description of our town. It really was all those things, but somehow, growing up with them, I had a different perspective. I loved th orange glow of nighttime that allowed steel lit walks after sunset. Watching a fiery slag path dissolve into a cloud of steam in the river was endlessly fascinating to me. The hum and whistle of trains was a bedtime song that brings back wonderful memories of home when I hear them now. And the stink of the Valvoline refinery was...well REALLY STINKY. It always smelled like too many crayons shoved up your nose and I don't miss that! Thanks for sharing the wonderful poem.

Jamie said...

As one of the cousins you came to visit, I can appreciate your wonderful description of our town. It really was all those things, but somehow, growing up with them, I had a different perspective. I loved th orange glow of nighttime that allowed steel lit walks after sunset. Watching a fiery slag path dissolve into a cloud of steam in the river was endlessly fascinating to me. The hum and whistle of trains was a bedtime song that brings back wonderful memories of home when I hear them now. And the stink of the Valvoline refinery was...well REALLY STINKY. It always smelled like too many crayons shoved up your nose and I don't miss that! Thanks for sharing the wonderful poem.