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Houses Across From the Plant

By George Grace

I imagine they’re fine today

(though the jury’s still out on this),

all those houses across from

the brownfields where once stood

a steel plant,

but at one time, when Bethlehem Steel

blackened the skies of Lackawanna

when streetlamps shone during the day,

someone said,

we can build housing here,

and they did – one story, two story,

with or without garages and driveways –

Baltic Avenue Monopoly houses,

next to the Strip Mill,

in the shadow of the Basic Oxygen Furnace

downwind from the Coke Ovens and the Sinter Plant.

And real estate agents jumped at the chance

to tell prospective buyers,

We’ve got a slew of nice, new houses for sale.

If you work at the plant you can walk there

in mere minutes.

And house-hunters,

one after another, said,

Perfect.

We’ll take it.

GEORGE GRACE is a Buffalo-based artist, poet, playwright and writer whose books include “American Stonehenge” and “Night Wanes, Dawn” (Writer’s Den Press, 2012). This poem is from his most recent book “Steeling America: A Poetic Memoir of Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Steel Plant” published earlier this year by the Writer’s Den Press. As a young man and aspiring writer, Grace worked at Bethlehem Steel from 1973 to 1977.