Making It Work

3-foot blue cannisters of nitro
along a conveyor belt, slow fish
speaking the language of silence.
On the roof, I in my respirator
patching the asbestos gas lines
as big around as the thick waist
of an oak tree. "These here are
the veins of the place, stuff
inside's the blood." We work in rain,
heat, snow, sleet. First warm
spring winds up from Ohio, I
pause at the top of the ladder
to take in the wide world reaching
downriver and beyond. Sunlight
dumped on standing and moving
lines of freight cars, new fields
of bright weeds blowing, scoured
valleys, false mountains of coke
and slag. At the ends of sight
a rolling mass of clouds as dark
as money brings the weather in.

by Philip Levine

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