I was born in 1922
in a good neighborhood
shadowed by a blast furnace,
puffing smoke into the air
and firing slag onto the highway.
A young couple moved into my halls,
and raised two children, young girls.
They claimed the back room
and made paper dolls
and helped their mother milk the goats they kept in the yard
and collected eggs from Plymouth hens.
Their father lost his job, and they left.
The next years were dark,
as if the sun had gone black.
A man walked a skeletal cow down the alley,
lettin’ it eat anything, even bitterweed.
Vulcan rose above,
naked except for his work,
and deer were given a park to roam,
as people huddled in shacks along the rails.
The others around me became filled again,
and a new family called my rooms its home.
They stayed for three generations,
with Victory Gardens and children collecting scrap.
White Star was let loose in trenches
and blue stars were hung in windows.
The youngest boy of that family
took after The Beatles, and died in the streets;
the oldest married a black woman.
The mother, father, and sister came to dinner every
good American holiday, and never acknowledged their sons or brothers
In the ‘70s, Sloss closed.
Doom thicker than black smoke
fell across Magic City.
My neighbors grew covered in kudzu as the birds died.
Tornados ripped others apart,
trees fell in stiff winds,
some neighbors fell into disrepair,
my old friend exploded with lovers trying to make meth.
I carried one family, a broken family, and one more woman.
A woman trying to make ends meet,
a teacher who told me about how the world
was better and worse
depending where you went,
and how she counted her blessings,
even if she had to be taught how to survive a shooting.
Then she left, finally tired of never winning,
and a man came to me for shelter and left his fire going.
So now I sit, cooked inside out like a man put upon a Judas Chair,
and watch as the world crumbles and burns,
ignored by the people who drop bread off at the homeless shelter
just down the road, as if there were enough bread in the world
to fix everything that has ever happened in my halls,
in my neighbor’s halls.