Art Bar 

American Life in Poetry

In this poem by western New Yorker Judith Slater, we’re delivered to a location infamous for brewing American stories — a bar. Like the story of Paul Bunyan, tales of work can be extraordinary, heroic and, if sad, sometimes leavened by a little light.

In the Black Rock Tavern

The large man in the Budweiser tee

with serpents twining on his arms

has leukemia. It doesn’t seem right

but they’ve told him he won’t die for years if he sticks with the treatment.

He’s talking about his years in the foundry,

running a crane on an overhead track in the mill.

Eight hours a day moving ingots into rollers.

Sometimes without a break

because of the bother of getting down.

Never had an accident.

Never hurt anyone. He had that much control.

His problem is that electricity

raced through his body and accumulated.

When he got down at the end of a shift

he could squeeze a forty-watt light bulb between thumb and finger and make it flare.

All the guys came around to see that.

 

Judith Slater’s poem appeared in Prairie Schooner, Vol. 78, No. 3, Fall 2004. Poem copyright 2004, University of Nebraska Press. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation