An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

At Cornwall Furnace

Cherokee County, Alabama

Blown out just after The War.
The stack's granite gapes. Each year
saplings try, as gravity has
longer, a reclamation masonry won't allow.
Lichens and moss do more.

Promises of love and forevers
mural its inside
above constellations of beer cans and glass,
ashes. The lid of sky's diameter
remains the same.

In water only yards away,
confluence of the Coosa and Chatooga,
mud ebbs from a bed of scoria,
slag I can find in channels
miles south. Algae homes in its pocks.

The friend who has brought me here
stands waist-deep in the rivers,
taking pictures
near a deadwood stump
when her feet find something odd.

Together we struggle from the water
a mass of pig-iron the size of a liver.
It's why Noble's men built it.
Probably a product of the last blast.
Too late. We can imagine

the boys who mined and cut the rock,
brought the hematite, ore, and limestone,
the slaves
sweating in their tunnel under the hill,
but do not. We know what fire

will burn here tonight, what
fumes will rise.
Flawless architecture of a monument.
Silent,
we heft the pig and give it back.

 

Published in Murder Ballads (2005).
Text may vary slightly from the video reading.

Published: 7 March 2008
© 2008 Jake Adam York and Southern Spaces