Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sharon Fagan McDermott: Carrie Furnace, Pittsburgh

The light is water driven through old gears

and red lights sweep the streets looking for the lost

while flaking brick simmers in itself like stew,


and black graffiti gyrates wildly on the wall,

turning into a dance you cannot look away from.

Here in the ruins, the wind has turned to bricks,


the bricks have opened up their mortared gaps

and let sycamores grow from crumbling walls.

A sumac shakes its branches into fractals—


It’s all vectors and angles, perpendicularity

strewn with looping vines. Scarlet

in the widening fields, tangerine leaves

draped like chic scarves from the branches.


But this is no old movie reel. You can’t rewind.

Air and water and time and it’s all coming apart—

rivets unriveting, screws unwinding and falling


to the dirt. decomposition next to composition

The wolf is stealthy on the rust-flaked vat.

Steel scraps pile like oak leaves. October again—


No men laboring and the hot metal bridge

is a cloud of grasses. Climb the rusting

stairs to the third floor of this old mill and there’s a train


frozen evermore at the curve of tracks. Maidenhead

ferns wave between the iron rails, and moss lies

down across them. In the old blast furnace room


where molten ore ran alongside men in heat suits,

there was no mercy, just hell and boot tips on the edge

of your last breath.  The light’s a claim on history;


the red string plays itself like a Stradivarius

and what remains are shapes drawn by an artist’s hand,

no longer there. Just another mark in a continuum of marks.


Copyright 2019 Sharon Fagan McDermott.

Sharon Fagan McDermott is a poet, musician, and a teacher of literature at a private school in Pittsburgh, PA. Her most recent collection of poetry, Life Without Furniture, published by Jacar Press (2018) wrestles with finding and feeling at home in the world and seeking sanctuary in an often challenging life.

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