Mel Packer: The Bend on the River Road from Homestead
A falling down, bullet-pocked sheet metal wall
Once erected to mark the edges of the
South Side Jones and Laughlin steel mill
Now holding back memories behind it
Sadder memories painted on it
A jilted lover
A retiree whose life’s love died
A millworker sacrificed to the army of the unemployed
When J & L closed….forever
Hard to believe, hard to read
Careening around the bend on the
River road from Homestead and
Abruptly pummeled with
“I loved her so much”
I never knew her
But I’ve never forgotten nor forgiven
Like the despairing artist
My failure to stop and record the image
And to share with the world
How much I loved her.
Author’s Note: This is something I’ve been thinking about for decades. From sometime in the late 70s until the J & L SouthSide steel mill was closed in the late 80s and then demolished in the early 90s, rusty sheet metal panels bordered East Carson Street and marked the edge of the J & L mill. I drove by it probably hundreds of time and each time was almost newly struck and saddened by a hastily spray painted phrase which seemed to cry all by itself from that wall. “I loved her so much” never failed to move me and to once again wish I knew its story. I also reminded myself with each passing that I needed to bring a camera and take a photo, but….I’m still reminding myself. It’s gone. Who knows if the anguished soul is gone as well. But to this day, I cannot come around that curve without seeing it again in my mind.
Mel Packer is a peace, justice and environmental activist, as well as a retired member of the Teamsters Union. He lives in Pittsburgh.
Such nostalgia! Beautiful.
Enjoyed reading this poem. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading the poem, John.