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This red hush toppling over the sky,
Wanders one step toward the stars
And dies in a questioning shiver.
The steel-mill chimneys fling their gaunt seeking
A little distance into the red
That softly combs their smoky hair.
The steel-mill chimneys only live at night
When crimson light makes love to them
And star-light trickles through the red,
Like glimpses of some far-off fairy tale.
Throughout the day the steel-mill chimneys stand
Rigidly within the wind-whirled glare:
Only night can bring them supple straightness.


From the little, brown gate that does not see them
Because its eyes are blind with wooing soot,
An endless stream of men scatters out
Into the cool bewilderment of morning.
Upon their lips a limply child-like surrender
Curves out to the light, as though they felt
The presence of an unassuming strangeness.
The morning hides from their eyes:
They walk on, in great strides,
Like blind men swinging over a well-known scene.
Their faces twitch with echoes of iron fists:
Their faces hold a swarthy stupor
Loosened by little fingers of morning light
Until it droops into reluctant life.
And then their eyes, made flat by night,
Swell into a Madonna-like surprise
At children trooping back in huge disguise.
the oranges in lunch-room windows change
To sleek suns dipped in sleepy light,
And rounded tarts in china plates
Are like red heart-beats, resting but not dead.
A trolley-car speeds by
And seems a strident lyric of motion.
Wagons rumble down the street
Like drums enticing weariness to step. . . .
The hearts of these steel-striding men
Ascend and blend within their eyes,
And yet, these men are unaware of this.
They only feel a fluid relief
Voicing, in a clustered roar,
The cries of struggling thoughts unshaped by words.
But there are some who break forth from the rest.
This old Hungarian strides along
And binds naïvely-winged prayer-sandals
Upon the heavy feet of shuffling loves.
Gently, he plays with his beard
As though his fingers touched a woman's hair.
And this young Slav whose surly blasphemy
Curls his face into a simple hate,
Has taken iron into his laugh
And uses it to hew his stony mind.
While this Italian whose deep olive skin
Shines like sunlight groping through dense leaves,
Forgets his battered happiness
And bows with mock grace to his shouting day.
Beside him is a fellow-countryman
Walking aimless, dazed with joy of motion.
Upon his face a glistening vacancy
Lights the mildly querying thoughts
That seek each other but never meet.
Behind him steps a stalwart Pole
Whose rhythmic, stately insolence
Turns the sidewalk into a grey carpet,
Grey as the shades that race across his face
And show the savage squalor of his soul.
Night has broken her heart upon him,
Only scarring his bitter smile.
A street of little, jack-o'-lantern houses
Veering into leering saloons,
Where the night, a crazy child,
Dips herself in sallow rouge
And chases oaths and heavy mirth
And even human beings:
Where the smoky sadness of the steel-mills
Wanders hesitantly into death
And drops a ghostly blur upon this girl.
Her numbly waxen, cherub face
Emerges gently from the doorway's blackness
As though the dark had given birth to it.
And then the falling light reveals
That something of a village hangs about her:
Something slumbering and ample.
The doorway is too small to hold
Her shoulders that are like a hill's broad curves
Dwindled in the distance. . . .
She is one of many earth-curved girls
Who listened to the insistent tinkle
Of wind-winged music from a far-off land:
Listened and knew not
That their own hearts faintly played.
So she ran to this far phantom,
Only finding it within herself
When the city's sly fists rained upon it.
Then once more she fled
With a dead heart whose restless pallor
Crept to squalid wantonness, for refuge.
And now she stands within this doorway,
Uttering muffled innuendos
To the drained men of her race.
Yet, something of a village hangs about her:
Something slumbering and ample
Stealing from the earth curves of her shoulders.


The steel-mill workers straggle down this street,
Clanging shut the doorways of their souls,
And the sound rips their lips open.
The steel-mill workers do not know of this:
They only seek something that will sweeten
The dirt that has eaten into their flesh
And change it to raw music.
They straggle down this street,
Their faces slack and oiled with amorousness.
Like cats they play with their desires,
Biting them with little laughs
Until the sallow houses draw them in.
And then the night pursues their revelry:
Echoes from the shut doors of their souls.


Three bent women and a child
Stoop before the steel-mill gate
As though the morning's ghastly murmur
Washed against them in a wave
Stiffening them into resisting curves.
One is old and floridly misshapen.
Years have melted out within her frame,
Flooding her with lukewarm loves.
The wrinkles on her flabby face
Are like a faded scrawl of pain
Scattered by the flesh on which it rests.
Her frayed shawl hanging unaware of her
Is a symbol of her heart.
The woman standing at her side
Is tall and like a slanting scarecrow
Coldly jerking in the morning's glare.
Only when she lifts a bony hand
Tapping life against her face,
Does the image disappear.
Dead dreams dangle in her heart,
Limply hanging from their rainbow sashes,
And whenever one sash trembles,
Then, she lifts a gnarled hand to her face
And tastes a moment of departing life.
Near her stands a slimly rigid woman
With an iron fear upon her bones.
A worn straight-jacket of lines
Cuts the dying youth upon her face.
The slender child beside her,
Buried within staidly murky clothes,
Glances frightenedly up at her mother:
Glances as one who dances to a gate
And fumbles for a latch that hides itself.
Then from the rusty-reveried steel-mill gate
An endless stream of men scatter out
Into the cool bewilderment of morning.
Upon their lips a limply child-like surrender
Curves out to the light, as though they felt
The presence of an unassuming strangeness.