22 May 2012

Slag

{the refuse from melting metals or reduction of ores; scoria}

I stand on the slag heap,
and memories tumble forth,
helter-skelter, disconnected,
like the brittle black scoria
strewn about my feet. My
grandparents’ house perched atop
a parched hill nearby seems so

small and ordinary, a
bit worse for wear, just like the
rest of the town, which seems intent
on falling into the mines’
maw. How did we all fit around
that dining room table, the
Thanksgiving crowds, bursting with

noise, love and stories? My grandmother’s
church, the Spanish sign proclaiming
divina gracia,
separated from the dingy
main drag by a narrow sidewalk,
still awaits divine grace, patient
as time, the crumbly fa├žade

like an old woman’s proud
face; hers, perhaps. Only the
shrine is bigger than its
memory, and less dusty,
with wrought iron gates painted
garish red, the ceiling inside
a mirror of the sky, complete

with sooty clouds of candle
smoke. Photographs compete
with one another for wall
space, the smiling portraits belie
the painful need for prayers.
And everywhere, the tailing
piles, buff waste, terrace the hills,

claimed, then reclaimed, and again
refused. A glimmer of hot
slag dribbles forth from vague
memory, molten litter,
stretching down the heap, lobed,
like a footprint in wet sand.
Momentarily it glows

against the darkness, igniting
pockets of memory hidden
deep below the surface, a
glint of ore here, there, but soon,
it flickers and fades, cools and
hardens, a fragile layer
of flawed debris.

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