This poem was previously published in The Rockford Review in 2007. It is about my mother.
Hers was a childhood rooted in the Great Depression,
the sixth and last baby born in the summer of 1929,
the least wanted of a life-weary woman
who had born her first twenty-one years earlier.
Steel mills sprang up across the Ohio River, spewing
ash and fire into the sky as the Greeks, Italians, Poles
Germans, Slavs traversed the bridges daily
to toil in the fiery pits.
How did she know it was time to leave when the
only world she had ever known was covered in soot,
when the only place to live was by a menacing river?
When the only night sounds were train whistles and
fog horns and the whoosh of flames hitting the air?
What evening was it when she looked out at the orange sky
and knew she didn't want to fall in love with a mill worker,
didn't want her children's hands and feet
blackened every summer day at play,
never to know the whiteness of snow
or a quiet, black, star-studded sky?