Oarlock, Oar (Y, W, V, U, F)
still I hail from smokestacks girders closed factories McLouth Steel’s poured slag turning the night sky and black river orange the tight typeface of houses in River Rouge Wyandotte the steel and auto tribes tribe of the alphabet job shops the fathers who set cutting tools on screw machines to make in multiples in sixes packets of ear plugs the men made deaf shift changes at three the line must never stop nothing could not mothers who taught us the alphabet shapes of oxen boats houses camels letters row on row to prop us up row the ideas forward the spear the snake the needle tooth Y W V U and F all hailing from the same tribe the same hieroglyph father oar or oarlock depending the alphabet not unlike the world we lived in once we lived there the letters trundled forth on their tracks boxcars shaking full of gleaming two-doors leather seats body by Fisher and yes I hail from unbeautiful artifice things that made us late (barred tracks flashed lights opened bridges) a tribe of shipbuilders iron ore taconite men whose hands would not wash clean the machinery and the machinery of the river the made thing more important than we were the things themselves not the idea of them I thought the letters books a different place the books were not the way out but in the letters embodying mirroring making what is the oarlock what the oar still I hail from the Grosse Ile crew team pulling on the river before school matching letter jackets forgotten on the dock the catch release their blades
From The Alphabet Not Unlike the World by Katrina Vandenberg. Copyright © 2012 by Katrina Vandenberg. Reprinted with permission of Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved.