Contents of Rust Belt

A Manufactured Poem
Here
Stained Glass
Elegy for a Junior Varsity
   Baseball Coach
Pyramid Scheme
   Sales Pitch

Trade Winds
White Christmas
Land of Opportunity
Sod Busting
Recession
Collecting Unemployment
Waterlogged
Greetings and Salutations
East Carson Street
Sign of the Cross
Icy Night
DON'T
400
Conspiracy Theories
Almost Unbelievable
A Sunday Drive Around
   Pittsburgh and its
   Suburbs

 

 

 

Joe Kaldon

Joe Kaldon lives in
Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
His poetry has appeared
in the Taproot Literary
Review and the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

About Joe Kaldon

E-mail

Power Plant

A Manufactured Poem

I.     POLICY WONKS

I have a burning memory of steel
of five shimmering yellow flames
alight high atop blast furnaces
a churning, chemical candelabra
alongside the immutable Ohio River.
Then the candles burned down
and melted into

 

                             vacant land

 

devoid of the boxy silhouettes
of vanished industry, that
left behind industrious money
in the piggy banks of retirees
and heated political arguments
about its funeral pyre.
The flickering flames morphed
into nettlesome poltergeists
that still haunt rhetoric,
in the hour after dusk.

20 years later cable TV brings news into
the living room of the information age,
a festival of talking heads, back and forth
talking about the expense of labor
the depreciated cost of humanity
they send theory over the airwaves:
Money must be free, free to flee
and travel across the sea
Corporate uncles know
they know what to do with money
let it flow and flow, let it rain upon the globe
every quarter of the globe, every quarterly report
needs rain to grow and profit, and increase
productivityandefficiencyandearningspershare
anddividendsandnetincomeandcashflow
on forward-looking statements
looking, looking forward
no job a God-given right
no reason to pay workers too much
the numbers look bad
the stock price goes down
the dividends dry up
it’s unprofitable to pay too much
when wages spiral out of control
no shore is too distant
when the rank-and-file want too much
when global banking and open borders
Make it inefficient to pay too much.
TV talks, talks of worker retraining
train and re-train, a lifetime
of training and moving
the best-trained pizza drivers
reside in America, land of movement
spastic moving and flashing on the TV
hyperactive pulsating images
flickering-flickering-flashing
to scenes of a train wreck, a study
of momentum and gravity.

II.     THE WOLVES

   Wolves gather and mill around, noses
twitch and eyes dart about, surveying
sniffing, pawing at the wreckage, restless
they stalk up the hill . . . they howl
A sonic cascade into the air, into the ears
of the haunted denizens of the boardroom
alarmed
by the yelping of shareholders
the baying of government regulations
the din of workers demanding higher wages
the cacophony of perpetual litigation
the incessant scream of their own
ambition reverberates with fear
of failure ---

Echoes sound into the night
into the valley, heard by the worker
where they mix with memories
of productive days of the past
alongside his union brothers,
working, building tangible products
Producing with his hands
hands that toil
to build the community
to provide for his family
to provide this pizza,
are the wolves coming for a slice?
where are those wolves stalking?
Skulking creatures of the night
harbingers of haunted visions
of repossessed cars, foreclosed mortgage
insistent unpaid monthly bills
unexpected illness, storms and repairs
unsettled retirement, unresolved anxiety
apprehension of financial apparitions
the shadow of unmet expectations
darken the night.

 

III.     THE HAPPY CONSUMER

hunger
ancient, basic instinct
hunt for the delivery phone number
gather a green twenty-dollar bill
lure the driver with a tip
wait for the doorbell to ring
retreat back into the square cave
with its tap-water well
with its TV fire-light.

   Happiness is a hot pizza
baked and delivered to the home
topped with cheese, pepperoni, sausage,
ham, bacon, green peppers, onions, olives,
extra cheese, tomatoes, pineapple,
anchovies, mushrooms, more cheese
dripping from the pie with so many
toppings, more toppings, topped with
a financed house, with three-car garage
with new SUV and riding mower
with instantly-approved credit
with big-screen home theater
endless premium cable channels
peddling the wares of the information age:
updated computers, video games, cell phones
the latest in conspicuous fashion, bargain-chic
imported clothing, an electric can opener in the
fully-applianced kitchen, a new bathroom
with the shine of borrowed money
waterbeds, Jacuzzis, gas grills,
a swimming pool and deck
All in a box smartly delivered.

 

IV.  THE REINCARNATION OF PONTIUS PILATE

     Pilate saw that a crowd was gathering,
and they brought before him a worker. 
The crowd began to shout:
“More goods!  More services!  Lower prices!”
Pilate stepped onto the balcony and addressed the crowd:
“What need have you of more imported goods?
Do you not already possess cars and phones
to connect you with the rest of the country? 
Are we not awash in cheap garments and trinkets?”
The crowd, upon hearing this,
only became more insistent:
“More goods! More services!  Lower prices!”
Pilate said: “What am I to do with this worker before me?”
The crowd responded:  “Away with him!  Send him overseas!”
Pilate replied:  “I find no fault in this man you bring before me.”
The crowd, unsatisfied with Pilate’s indecision,
demanded of him:
“Cast him overseas!  His wages are too high!”
Pilate asked of those gathered: 
“What is to become of this worker?  He will no longer
earn good wages to support his family and community. 
What will become of his slice of the pie?”
The crowd only became more clamorous,
and scolded Pilate:
“Enough of this worker!  Cast him overseas!”
Now Pilate, upon seeing that he was doing no good,
and that a riot was breaking out, gave this declaration
as he took water and washed his hands for all to see:
“I will send this worker overseas, to satisfy your customs.
I wash my hands of the future of your nation.”
The crowd replied:
“Let the future bring what it may; more goods,
 more services, and lower prices!”

 

V.     EPIPHANY

A new day, like the aroma
of fresh-baked pizza
a rich, fulfilling meal
dough with all the right ingredients
dough you can get your hands on
the tang of hot, thick
American cheese
with meaty pepperoni and sausage
a perfect alloy of flavor
a blend of sustenance
a way of life
in our hands.

A plant produces
Workers work
Managers manage
Shareholders invest
Government governs
a nation grows and prospers,
building lives and communities
working together
manufacturing hope
only people can make goods
only people can make profits
only people can secure their legacy.

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