The Village BlacksmithHenry Wadsworth Longfellow
Under a spreading chestnut-tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands. His hair is crisp, and black, and long, His face is like the tan; His brow is wet with honest sweat, He earns whate'er he can, And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man. Week in, week out, from morn till night, You can hear his bellows blow; You can hear him swing his heavy sledge, With measured beat and slow, Like a sexton ringing the village bell, When the evening sun is low. And children coming home from school Look in at the open door; They love to see the flaming forge, And hear the bellows roar, And catch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor. He goes on Sunday to the church, And sits among his boys; He hears the parson pray and preach, He hears his daughter's voice, Singing in the village choir, And it makes his heart rejoice. It sounds to him like her mother's voice, Singing in Paradise! He needs must think of her once more, How in the grave she lies; And with his hard, rough hand he wipes A tear out of his eyes. Toiling,---rejoicing,---sorrowing, Onward through life he goes; Each morning sees some task begin, Each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose. Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, For the lesson thou hast taught! Thus at the flaming forge of life Our fortunes must be wrought; Thus on its sounding anvil shaped Each burning deed and thought.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
- From the Library of Congress's online image catalog:
- GENERAL VIEW OF DURALOY COMPANY
- OFFICE BUILDING LOOKING NORTHEAST
- AT THE WEST FACADE
- From 1885 until 1936, National Foundry & Pipe
- Works Ltd. and its successor, United States Cast
- Iron and Foundry Company manufactured cast
- iron water and gas pipes and fittings.
- The Duraloy Company took over the Scottdale
- plant in 1937 after its West Virginia factory
- burned. By 1945, it was one of the largest
- producers of equipment for the manufacture
- of magnesium, and a supplier for the
- Manhattan Project.
- (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
- Division, Washington, D.C. [HAER PA,
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Once placed in the mines, the mules never saw the light of day again, for fear the shock would drive them mad.
Beneath houses and mountains, the coal seam lurks,
snaking under markets and factories, under churches, farms,
soda fountains, and garages, under railroad tracks and the hotel
where drunk old men sleep. The woman walks over the coal,
tracing an aimless map onto the earth—trailing, cigarette to lips,
through the ragged yards and alleys to the matinee minstrel show,
where she sits alone and watches the red-lipped white men mop
their black brows, cough and sing in the rising smoke from a hundred
women’s cigarettes, thick enough to choke the light; where she waits
for the piano player to seek out the chords of a darky strut,
for two black white men to stomp their feet, one two one two,
bow, and disappear into the empty wings, into the hill-bound town
where the chimneys hide behind the smoke and the riverbank
flares like a forest, where new leaves are painted in dust that sifts
onto the woman wandering home across the yards and alleys,
under the sooty trees, up the buckled, heaving streets to home;
where soon the man also walks, swinging a lunch bucket, not fast, not slow,
but quiet, stepping one step after another to where the woman sits,
smoking and silent in the kitchen where the kettle boils on the stove,
fogging the window where the child writes her name in careful script
on each little pane, index finger black with the coal that seeps into the house
that the woman has not dusted for weeks, for months, for years:
the glass-faced cabinets, the letters sloping onto tables, the newspapers
jaundiced with age, the scarred legs of couches draped in sheets,
the end table swathed in shabby linen where a once-gilt lamp perches,
throwing a saucer of light that never reaches the dark creeping
up the streets and alleys, the yards where black clotheslines streak the shirts
black and the trees shake black pollen onto the roofs. In the quiet house
the man takes off his boots and peels down his sweat-stiffened socks;
and the child gapes at the white hairless feet, soft and puffed, cramped toes
bending and stretching helplessly under the lamplight while the woman
smokes in silence, while the little kettle coughs and sings on the fire
and the minstrel show rises like steam in her memory, a slow vapor
that bends and frays. Ghostlike, the black-faced men mouth their songs;
crimson seats fold up over wraiths; invisible hands press the silent keys
of the piano. Smoke vanishes into ceiling, and ceiling melts to sky; the clouds
dissolve to pinpoints of light, and the light fades to nothing, not even black;
night descends on a town where the smelters burn and rusty bridges
hang over the creek like mothers staring into an empty crib.
For the child has flitted away into the darkness—a moth, velvet and brief,
wings brushing the soot-stained air, her shadow painting an eyeless window.[from Boy Land & Other Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2004)]
Monday, March 28, 2011
from The Kingdom of Coal by Dan RottenbergIn Pennsylvania's Monongahela Valley, commercial coal mining began in 1759. Between 1768 and 1784 the family of William Penn acquired all of western Pennsylvania's bituminous coal fields from the chiefs of the Six Nations at a total cost of $10,000, or less than a cent an acre--a transaction that ranks alongside Peter Minuit's purchase of Manhattan Island from the Algonkin Indians for trinkets worth $24 in 1626 as one of the great bargains of history.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The red-brick, nine-storey Necho Allen [was] named for the hunter who discovered anthracite coal on a nearby mountain in 1790. This hotel's subterranean Coal Mine Tap Room, decorated with anthracite walls and ceilings supported by mine timbers, attracted visitors from across the country who would never set foot in an actual coal mine. In the Necho's ballroom, big bands entertained standing room-only crowds. The Necho's elegant lobby-level dining room, with its ornate chandeliers and heavy white table linens, was dominated by an enormous three-piece oil-on-canvas painting of Sistine Chapel pretentions--but the subject of this monumental triptych was not God awakening Adam, but Necho Allen arousing succeeding generations of coal miners, coal towns, and coal machines to their heroic destiny.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
The Orpheus of LeisenringJanice Miller Potter. . . they heard the sluther of pit-boots.--D. H. LawrenceOften he winched his shouldersquickly, to show he didn't know, as his calmSargasso eyes shifted away their troubleswith a remote expression of watery blue,clear and unclouded but ruefully acceptingthe reality that he possessed no clue tohow life had locked him in, a storm becalmed.He'd thought and felt he knew nothing.Was it the child, never scanting himfrom her constellation of childish claims?The lamp that rode his skull, the bright staron the helmet he wore in the Leisenring Mine,kept her wakeful at night, waiting for the dawnand the sound of his Dodge. When he pulled in,the untrellised, rambling seven-sisters raspedthat he'd come up in a cage from Leisenring.Coal musk drenching his sunless skin,sweat-sodden, he sluthered into the dark kitchenwhere the child--up from nightmare--plunderedhis dinner bucket for her wax-papered cake,the coconut snowball he'd ferried down and backfor her to rob him of. In the half-light, whistling"Mares Eat Oats," he knew he could assumeneither love nor delight the foil of time.[from Psalms in Time (Finishing Line Press, 2008)]
Thursday, March 24, 2011
at school is against the rules,
so when a spike-haired
first grader in need
butts up against your hip,
don’t you wrap your arms
round his skinny bones, don’t you
cup his skull in your palms,
smooth a knuckle up his baby cheek:
he’s got lice, he’s got AIDS;
you kiss him, you die,
or worse: late nights, he’ll hunch up small,
stare into some laugh show
and whisper what no half-pissed dad
cares to hear from his wife’s
kid at the end of a long day
of nothing, when sleep
is the only country,
anywhere else, terror:
a father you’ve marked
before, slouching into parent night,
two hands trembling
along his thighs like birds
black eyes wary as a bull’s:
he blinks at the butcher,
you smile, you fold
your unheld hands;
what roils in his wake is the one
you won’t teach
to beg an answer from love.
Leo’s eleven, but he still can’t write “Leo.”
He throws a pencil at me.
“You write the poem,” he says.
He frowns and leans back in his chair
and shuts his eyes.
In the flat autumn light, his glasses
shed a watery glow. His freckles tremble.
Leo always likes to keep me waiting.
After a minute he growls,
“Big heifers in the corn again,
And them horses
After a minute he snarls,
“Coyote snitched the rawhide.
Grab a gun and blast him,
Then skin him up.”
Twenty other kids breathe hard,
scribble, and erase. Danyell chews
on the end of a pen and sighs gustily.
“Can I make this up?” she complains.
Leo slouches and crosses his arms
over his bony ribs. He opens his eyes
and smiles in a superior manner.
In his view, imagination sucks.
What matters in a poem
is you tell it like it happened
but you leave out the crap.
He jerks his chin up,
looks me over, slitty-eyed. He says,
“I do something I do it right!”
When that bell screams,
he’s number one out the door.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The year '87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or lesser interest, of which I retain the records. Among my headings under this one twelve months, I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwell poisoning case.
Monday, March 21, 2011
One has only to think of the Elizabethan tombstones with all those children kneeling with clasped hands; and their early deaths; and to see their houses with their dark, cramped rooms, to realise that no woman could have written poetry then.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
The sun is under no obligation to shed its optimistic beams
on the ugliest town in Maine—not now, not in March
when I’ve steeled myself for gravel-picked mud and despair,
for broken branches and a plow-scarred dooryard
rimmed with a winter’s worth of dog turds, pale and crumbled
among the pale remaindered weeds.
But it does shine, that fool’s orb, for reasons best known to itself;
and I slouch here in my yellow chair, both cold feet
parked under the woodstove, squinting into this cheerful, bossy glare,
attempting to convince myself that unbridled nature
has, for once, chosen to be a genial master instead of the flogging brute
we expect here in the ugly town, where we don’t think
ski but shovel, don’t think flowers but floods.
Maybe I’ve been reading too many books—
too much Roth and Munro, too much Blake and Carruth,
all of them driven to detail bleak empty roads
and unmown lawns; evil alleys and poisonous rivers;
the fathers, dyspeptic, misunderstood; the mothers,
wiping schmaltz and ketchup from the shabby oilcloth; and meanwhile
those thirteen angels on their magic seats, frowning and perturbed.
Of course there’s happiness too. No one denies the happiness,
but don’t count on it to carry you through. Keep your eye
steady, your irony sharp. Stay wary; it’s best to stay wary—
though not one of these writers, I can tell you right now,
has ever stayed wary enough, and they’ve paid for it in spades—
a phrase that might, for dwellers of another clime,
connote cognac and midnight whist parties
but that here, in the ugly town, where most everyone
gambles by scratch ticket and goes to bed early,
means plain old digging:
in snow, in thankless stony soil, with a bent shovel,
with a belching backhoe; tearing up asphalt,
forking out a winter’s worth of choking black shit.
You can kill yourself when you pay in spades
for a neat square cellar hole—say, when you’re fifty years married
to a woman who’s dreamed for all those heavy decades
of trading her wind-licked trailer for a house with a furnace.
No, you haven’t had time, you haven’t had money,
all you’ve had is a middle-aged kid who won’t get out of the recliner
except to grab a beer from the icebox, all you’ve had
are those cars, one after the other, falling into seizures and dismay;
and if you can’t stop eating what you shouldn’t be eating,
at least there’s salt, there’s sugar, those reliable offerings
that remind you you’re still alive, that you haven’t yet
paid out every single spade. Yet it’s a lie, and you know it,
and I know it too because I tell my own brand of lies,
such as it’s okay to be easy on myself,
such as I mean well, such as it’s good enough
to chronicle the sweetness of this sunlight,
not to force myself to keep struggling to speak
when I don’t know how to think, when I don’t know how
to find the word, the only word, trembling, naked as a rat,
when I don’t know how to lay it down, wet and mewling,
among the schmaltz and the ketchup stains.
Someone might argue that here’s where a little wariness
would do me good, and not just me but all these writers
whose books I’ve been reading too often,
and even they might agree with you, on a bad morning.
But today, according to this obstinate sun, is not a bad morning.
Brilliance leaks and flows through window smears,
patches the dour carpet. The light refuses to let up.
It insists on itself, like a mean cat does,
gliding from nowhere to bite me on the ankle.
The world is too much with us; late and soon
is what Wordsworth wrote, but it’s not what he meant.
He was trying to say we were too distracted by our lives
to notice this sunshine, and here I am borrowing his words
to explain that I am too distracted by this sunshine
to notice my life. The world overtakes me,
I’m not wary enough, and something bad will happen
if I don’t watch out. That’s the point to remember about writing.
It doesn’t solve anything.
[first published in New Walk (autumn/winter 2010-11)]
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
I don't know if you know Francine [Prose] and her work. Myself, I only know Francine. I've never read any of her books. And I'm pretty sure she has never read any of mine. It's strange in a way, but delightful too: two writers who haven't read each other's work and are content--more than content--to be friends on a simply human level. I like her immensely.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy to the practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. But the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it?
Coleridge certainly did not mean, when he said that a great mind is androgynous, that it is a mind that has any special sympathy with women; a mind that takes up their cause or devotes itself to their interpretation. Perhaps the androgynous mind is less apt to make these distinctions than the single-sexed mind. He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided. In fact one goes back to Shakespeare's mind as the type of the androgynous, of the man-womanly mind, though it would be impossible to say what Shakespeare thought of women.
Berenger (surfeited and pretty weary): How do I know, then? Perhaps [the rhinoceros has] been hiding under a stone? . . . Or maybe it's been nesting on some withered branch?
Proper evaluation of words and letters in their phonetic and associated sense can bring the peoples of the earth into the clear light of pure Cosmic Wisdom.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Schoolboys in WinterJohn ClareThe schoolboys still their morning rambles takeTo neighbouring village school with playing speed,Loitering with pastimes' leisure till they quake,Oft looking up the wild geese droves to heed,Watching the letters which their journeys make,Or plucking 'awes on which the fieldfares feed,And hips and sloes--and on each shallow lakeMaking glib slides where they like shadows goTill some fresh pastimes in their minds awakeAnd off they start anew and hasty blowTheir numbed and clumpsing fingers till they glow,Then races with their shadows wildly runThat stride, huge giants, o'er the shining snowIn the pale splendour of the winter sun.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Hot sun, and acres of red dust edged with poison ivy. A sweaty orthodox rabbi clings awkwardly to the back of my uncle's combine, in hopes of making sure that all of this wheat chopping is kosher. I have my doubts. His glasses look pretty dirty.
Pizza is called tomato pie. Peaches actually grow on trees, and my aunt makes ice cream from them. My cousin throws up in the hallway after we get dizzy from dancing to Village People 45s. Someone, somewhere, is smoking a cigar. I suspect my father.Grandparents are Republicans. Parents are Democrats. I don't know what aunts and uncles are. There is arguing. Meanwhile, the kids inspect the Reader's Digest Condensed Books and wish someone would turn down the air conditioning.Scrapple tastes bad but you have to eat it anyway.During after-dinner card games, the Republicans and Democrats stop arguing, start drinking martinis and highballs, and energetically josh each other. The kids invent ever louder and more elaborate games in the back room until the dishes in the jelly cupboard start to rattle, an uncle appears demanding decorum and threatening to whale a few tails, and the game is temporarily reduced to hisses and giggles. Repeat till midnight.