Plum Flesh

by Samantha Killmeyer

He walks along the rail causeway just outside of Pittsburgh.
In a rocky slag heap, wasting, two rhododendrons bloom
in full purple. In its sixty years of disuse, Brown Slap Dump
has become greener—moss thickens on tree boughs,
limbs rotten against the metallic grey, a green fire
of new leaves flickering in the most desolate hollows.
He stoops to gather lamb's quarter, woodbine,
a handful of goldenrod flecking the outcropping's edge.
His face is turned inward, as if something he remembered
were being gathered too.

It is afternoon, a thin stone of my own memory
lies like a scar on the desk's edge. In my palm,
he is sixteen again, thick asbestos gloves,
drawing the wheel on the pig machine,
blast furnace to his back and molten steel
flowing in a scarlet river broad as his torso.
Heat reaches its hungry fingers through
everything, belt buckles, face masks, shoes
with tire treads nailed to the bottom. Inside,
Carnegie Steel was a dungeon, but he birthed
a life from its pressure. All that is left is a stone,

not even a stone, a round piece of rejected metal
I scavenged from his blue two story home on
the city's south side. It was lying on a plank shelf
shoved into the cellar's dirt wall, faintly shining
in the dark and porous, like a wild morel grown
over decades. Its tiny holes mirror the slag pit's
moon craters filled with wildflowers. My grandfather
no longer has steel or slag or rhododendrons;
this can be as sad or happy as the three rivers,
converging at twilight, light catching in currents
like the color inside of plums, I notice now,
running deep reddish purple into my hands. We admire
the stone together, and he starts to walk again.

Samantha Killmeyer is a current graduate student at Kansas State University working towards a masters in creative writing and literature. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in OVS Magazine, Kindred Mag, and an anthology of nature writing titled Cosmic Outlaws: Coming of Age After the End of Nature. Her poem "Pillsbury Crossing" will also appear in audio form through Fjords Review's Public Poetry Series.

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