Mill Memorabilia

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Feature photo: Members of United Steelworkers Local 2609 at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant hold a “tailgate” meeting at Penwood Field across from the plant’s hot rolling mill to discuss how to respond to management’s violations of the union’s contract. (Leonard Shindel)

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

The Developers.

 

Who shelled out cash to Crunchers,

deploying massive claws,

Dozers and Dynamite,

Obliterating

every last brick and I-beam,

every furnace,

every rolling mill,

every bathhouse,

every locker,

every parking lot.

 

Obliterating the steel mill

where I worked,

just one of millions,

showing up,

all hours of the day and night,

Whipping winters,

Scorching summers,

Showing Up,

Part of Something.

Big and Bad.

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

 

Do I give them newsletters,

obituaries I wrote

for co-workers killed,

shredded, run over,

Pulverized,

Burned

on the job?

 

Do I give them my old contract books,

grievances we filed and fought for,

marked up, coffee-stained,

finger painted in grease?

 

Do I give them my co-workers’ splendid etchings,

their poems,

images of their flashy roadsters,

their meticulous carvings?

 

Do I give them snapshots,

co-workers playing the fool,

Christmas in the mill,

rallies,

picket lines,

cops slapping handcuffs

on our wrists?

 

Do I give them my hard hat,

pasted with campaign stickers,

my triumphs,

my painful rejections?

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

 

They say they want to preserve my “narrative” too.

 

They don’t understand.

 

How could they?

 

That would complete the Obliteration.

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