Susan Gee is from Victoria, B.C. She is
working on a double degree in writing and art history at the University
of Victoria. This poem was originally published in How Light Needs
to Bend (Leaf Press, 2008), edited by Patrick Lane.
Aluminum Plant, Czechoslovakia, 1991
Bent at the knees, he stirs boiling silver with a stick
that burns shorter at each turn,
releases bubbles from the molten mix.
This hall of wheels and darkness, rods and iron ovens,
this hall of offerings.
He leaves his name on the floor
for the wish of a better life.
Gas and salt, tar enough for a lung's next meal,
airborne slurry licking the mask at his lips.
Somewhere in his chest
he feels the muscles that turn his arms,
that turn the burning stick. Somewhere in his hips
the relic of a distant want recedes past bone.
Pot operator, tender of the boiling bowl,
as in some myth where one man
goes to the god house and gives himself to the holy, unspeakable task.
He knows what he believes in this moment
will take him to the next hour and the next.
He turns to the windows,
shards at the roofline, to watch light blast,
grey arms long as tomorrow.
He is the chosen. The one
who brings home the silver, lost in the monster maw,
lost to the good people. It is him,
the man with the burning stick,
vapors of light at his back,
and he puts his shoulder to it.