Steel Mill Dust
by Joseph Lisowski

I’m from outside–
from graffiti-scarred gates
of abandoned steel mills,
from bloodstained slogans–
“Aid’s Alley,” “Needle Park”–
from broken glass in the ball field
where rocks served as bases,
from cyclone fences topped with barbed wire
where boys smoked, drank, and cut each other.

I’m from inside–
from duck’s blood soup,
kiska, kielbasa, beets, and leeks,
from a potbelly stove, a coal
furnace never working right,
window cracks, cold.

I’m from my grandfather’s warm
homemade beer served to me in thimbles,
from my grandmother’s soft Polish vowels,
the play of parents, grandparents,
an uncle, ever-increasing siblings
living under the same roof.

All we owned was our laughter,
our sense of family, ourselves regardless
how we lived stacked in a rented row house.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The location described in the poem is the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, below Butler St., specifically, a rented two bedroom row house 186 45th St., less than a 100 yards from the entrance to a steel mill.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Heppenstall Steel, 2006” (facility closed in 1979) by Marc Rettig, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After growing up under the shadow of Heppenstall Steel Mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joseph Lisowski has spent much of his life near the sea, including 10 years in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which serves as the setting for his three published mystery novels, Full Body Rub, Looking for Lisa, and Looking for Lauren. He won the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Teacher of the Year Award (2013-2014). His most recent full length book is Stashu Kapinski Dreams of Glory (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013).