Vox Populi

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Robert Gibb: Worker, Steel Mill

Photograph by W. Eugene Smith, c. 1955


Bug-eyed in those glare-filled goggles,

He’s gauntleted and cassocked, garbed

To be garbed in fire, which forms a lake

On the floor behind him and fills the doors

Of the blast furnace walled behind that.

Hamlin Garland’s “Hell with the lid off,”

It’s now bedrock for the post-war boom,

The crucible stoves melting coke

And pig iron, the stock charged

To make steel, the slag poured off . . .

Because the earth is so much raw material

The days have been divided into shifts,

The weeks into work and then what’s left.

Because the business cycle is unrelenting,

He works turns that follow the clock.

Punches in before pulleying his robes

Down from where he left them,

Halfway to heaven in the ceiling’s loft,

Dressing to take his station again,

The clotted fires fissuring their troughs.

Because of the costs of production.

Copyright 2018 Robert Gibb

For an appreciation of the work of Robert Gibb, click here.

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