Midnight, Furnace, Wind
Jake Adam York

Halfway through the second heat, we see him shouting 
from the floor, something to say. Always something to say.
He said the metal had stories to tell, said
he heard them whispering when he tapped the iron.
Heat, he’d say, is just the same goods moving —
iron just mountain running fast as rivers cut it,
its ore, coal, and bone now quick as tongues.
Now he’s running, arms waving, still shouting,
face turning red, but you can’t hear a thing. 
Can’t tell the Bessemers’ blowing from the wind 
or the hiss of quenched steel or the rinse 
someone forgot exploding under molten iron 
in the ladle overhead. But we see the sunrise glow 
spreading on his face, his mouth brightening 
as if those tongues flickered there, and then 
the metal cauling him, a man of fire, walking, then 
reaching out, then gone.

                                                            One night,
when the blast sparks swarmed like yellowjackets, 
I breathed one in, coughed back a sphere of metal
still cooling in a whisper of spit. That was all we found,
beads that rolled for the drains, and a quiet 
that held for weeks, steam hiss scattering everyone.
I’d sit, the foremen yelling in my radio, remembering 
his face, bathed in light, something like a smile 
curling there, the way he cocked his head as if to listen 
to the burn. The sort of thing we should have heard.
It sounds like the spaces between the yelling,
a little squelch then static waiting to be broken, 
like his open empty mouth, like watching him shout
and hearing nothing but the rush,
everyone deaf to what the metal said.
Originally appeared in Third Coast

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