Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Clay: A Memory & a Dream

January 26, 2018

 

When I arrive is always years from now
at the edge of my father’s marsh
and the hole is half filled with water
and choked with grass
where at five
I watched him dig lilies for our yard 

I step barefoot into fetid water
worm the ooze around my feet
scoop black decay with my toes
working through sediment
to yellow clay 

Returning night after night
kneading my feet in that clay

 

First published in Tellus.

 

51 Plymouth in Marsh - photo by Mike Smetzer

Dad cut the top and the back off his 51 Plymouth and took the seats out so we could haul Christmas trees up to the yard for sale. Worked well until Dad took a shortcut and got stuck at the deep end of the marsh. That night it rained. Still there.

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The “Bomb Cyclone” of 2018

January 4, 2018

Looking out our window I’d say we have a pretty good blizzard going. Good enough that I’m stuck at home. But then I drive an old Ford van with 2-wheel drive and my apartment house parking is two stories below street level.

Like everyone else over forty, I’m thinking, “This bomb is nothing compared to the storms we had years ago.”

I remember one storm when the snow drifted to over two feet above the electric line in front of our house. Terrible storms when I was a kid.

Then again, I believe we actually only got about a foot of dry snow out of that storm. An oil truck went off the road and knocked down the electric pole. But like I said, before the crew came out and replanted the pole, there was a drift two feet above the electric wires. Terrible storms when I was a kid.

Circling Back

June 30, 2017

 

A long road under thunder.

Deer alert among cattle.
A fox sidling through clear-cut.

Then white clouds shadowing corn.
The grassy in-road through fields.

Cracked melons in the garden weeds.
Toadstools rotting by the barn.

*

Circling back, and back.

A hike through mud under snow.
Then the steep path of loose stones

up through a patch of wintering rye
to the window watched only in memory.

New dogs growl from the gate.
Loud, strange voices shriek from the barn.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer
An earlier version was first published in 2014 by Off the Coast.

Woods Road in Missouri - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Woods Road in Missouri – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Skunky’s Steel Mill Story: A Verse Fiction

June 24, 2017

 

Wasn’t my department, Mikey. But, God! I’ll never
forget that day. Must be forty years ago now.
Still seems clear as that Pellegrino you’re drinking.

Steve and I were new hires then. Lloyd, our foreman,
had gone off somewhere, so that morning we played
broom hockey with a pint we dug out of a fan mount.

Jack Daniels, Black Label. Pretty good sipping whiskey!
Sometimes we found bottles part full, but this was open
and empty. Except maybe half a teaspoon, dried to a syrup.

I remember it was hot that noon. No breeze off the lake.
I was sitting outside on the loading dock, leaning
on the corrugated steel. That steel felt cool in the shade.

The explosion had to be loud, but I don’t remember. I think
I saw an orange flame. Then the top two thirds of Number 3
Blast Furnace disappeared in churning, black disaster smoke.

You’ve seen that stuff on CNN. Can’t really see much.
What I remember is the little balls of coke. Pea sized.
Coming down all around and bouncing on the concrete.

I had a carton of chocolate milk beside me. My hard hat
was upside down on the concrete with an unwrapped
sandwich inside. Pickle loaf with American cheese.

Next thing I remember, I was standing inside the dock,
listening to alarms going off all over the plant. My hard hat
was on my head and pickle loaf mush was on my hand.

I looked back. Men were hustling down the stairs along
the outside of the furnace and running toward the road.
I remember light shirts moving under a black cloud.

I finished lunch later, inside. Went back to the dock
for my chocolate milk. Bought a Butterfinger and a bag
of Cheetos at the power station canteen. Tasted good.

I have forgotten who died. They posted a list by the clock.
No one I knew. Not my department. But I remember those
pellets of coke, dropped around like petrified bunny shit.

We swept coke balls off the parking, all afternoon.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer
A prose version of this story was first published in Staccato Fiction, Fall 2011.

 

Discussion

Skunky’s story started with one of my experiences working at the steel mills along the southern tip of Lake Michigan in the 1970’s. I had a job in the power station of the sprawling Bethlehem Steel complex at Burns Harbor, Indiana. Several of us were outside on the loading dock eating lunch when the coke bin of the blast furnace across the street exploded. The scene was as described. All I added was the carnage. I then gave Skunky an audience – a dumb-ass new kid like I was when I started in the mills. So I end up talking to myself again.

Verse novels are an established genre that is growing in popularity, but the use of verse is also effective with shorter works of fiction. I like to use it for some short short stories. Shorter verse fiction does not use as many characters or points of view as are sometimes found in verse novels. Otherwise, it works the same way – by combining the line structure and concentration of poetry with the plot development, syntax, and rhythms of prose fiction.

Mike Smetzer at Harbor - Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Mike Smetzer at Harbor – Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer