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Jason Irwin: Landscape

after Cesare Pavese

See the men break through the early morning mist

like phantoms from a dream; their hat brims 

pulled low, shirt sleeves rolled above elbows, 

boots caked with last week’s mud. See their long 

mustaches and chins like sandpaper – Germans, Irish, 

Italians, Polish, Catholics, Protestants, thieves – 

some with eyes still bright and anxious like the children 

they once were, others, like the men from the Buckeye Fish 

Company, gaze solemnly into some fathomless heaven 

or hell. Even John Hilton’s bricklayers have grown old 

before their time. See these men plow through soot  

covered streets like horses, converging from all directions, 

leaving their homes and tiny boarding house rooms, 

their wives, lovers, mothers, children – all their sorrowing 

disappointments, behind. See these men unloading 

the pulpwood freighters from Manitoulin Island, 

destined for Pennsylvania and paper. See the boys running, 

laughing, gloriously truant, picking through the trash bins. 

Look down Central Avenue to Third Street, past the opera house 

and Friendly Tavern, just a block or so north of 

the whore house and city hall; see the westbound locomotive 

derailed, lying on its side, gasping like a wounded animal, 

and farther south, farther even, than the trolley’s last stop – 

see the hills of Arkwright and Cassadaga explode into color.

Copyright 2016. From A Blister of Stars by Jason Irwin. Published by Low Ghost Press.

Arkwright’s Cotton Mills by Night, c.1782-3 (oil on canvas) by Joseph Wright of Derby, (1734-97) oil on canvas 99.7×125.7 Private Collection English. Public Domain. Source: Copia di Arte.

2 comments on “Jason Irwin: Landscape

  1. Geri Lawhon
    June 25, 2020

    My mind is filled with all kinds of images from this wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Adès
    April 16, 2020

    This is a wonderfully vivid and evocative poem Jason! We do see it all and my goodness you say so much in just four words: “all their sorrowing disappointments”. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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