Bitter Harvest

The great concrete bulk of the building still looms over the street. Its heavy shadows a cool relief from the heat of the sun.

The tracks where trains once flashed by on their way from New York to Chicago are empty, and hidden in weeds. My car bumps across their rails, as I pull down the street.

Across from the old factory, the wrought iron fence of the cemetery continues its centuries long surrender to rust. The factory and the cemetery, surround me like two shores of a river as I drift past.

Three generations of immigrants squeezed into this space between work, and death. Walking up from the South Side every morning, with their exotic meats and slabs of homemade bread, wrapped in wax paper, carried in buckets, and empty tobacco tins.

If I close my eyes, I can see their ghosts in denim, and overalls.

Three blocks away they could already hear the ringing, and pounding from within the echoing halls, a world of steel and stone, turning out reapers and threshers for a nation of farmers.

Knife blades of sunlight slant down from the vents in the roof, and pierce the darkness. They stand at the lathes, and presses, and watch the hours drip like beads of sweat from their brows.

My car rattles over the broken pavement, past the bar where they quenched their thirst after a day inside the dark, and dusty halls. Thick hands, and thicker accents were wetted by the mugs, whose drops of condensation fell like tears onto the sawdust floors.

They are all gone now.

The workers to their humble graves in the Catholic cemetery down the street , the threshers and reapers to rust and weeds, the jobs to places where men and women sacrifice limbs to feed their children.

But the great hulk of the building stands.

Its weather beaten face is scarred by the years, and crumbling around the edges, but its heart is still as hard as granite.

A head stone for a city we used to be.


4 thoughts on “Bitter Harvest

  1. First, let’s ignore the moving imagery of your post and talk about how awesome I look in denim overalls. Then we can address the bleak pictures you paint of the birth, school, work, death cycle that seems like a prison sentence for those who can never leave or have a glimmer of hope for something else. It’s almost as if the outside world does not exsist. I cannot imagine a life where you exsist in a bubble that cannot be penetrated

  2. I love the imagery too. Your metaphors are awesome. I wish I could come up with words like “Knife blades of sunlight”. There’s something starkly beautiful in the idea that love, hope, and hardwork were once so intertwined among those people who gave up their homes and country in order to find something – anything – better. The lengths they were willing to go shouldn’t be so easily forgotten! A “head stone” indeed!

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