21 | Standing While Falling

From across the river
the chemical plant looks
like a city and the city like
flakes of gold in a raindrop (the river
like flakes of rain). You could think it
a city, mistake the sulfur for chimney smoke,
the shift bells for traffic, piles of coal
on the conveyor belts for train cars
full of people like you. When the wind dies
everything hangs like a photograph
and you lived your best days
on those trains in and out of the city,
spent your best love in pagan South Side
bars and broke-down warehouses
with windows like chess games.
The color of money was steel
and kids trudged to school
through ash. Mountains of slag
lit the horizon like faraway wars
but even war seemed cleaner—
the way if you wanted
you could hate it—and when you stood
on your roof you knew
which lights were workers coming home
and which were stars. When the steel
game dried up and the red glow
of slag bled into missed you
fled into mist like light—how light
moves south and often. Everything’s plastic
and Napalm now, but in the right air
the tanks and stacks on the bank
look like constellations, the coal barges
like comets. Some nights your boots
slip on the grass in the yard and some nights
they stick like stamps but no matter
where you plant your feet
you’re always kind of falling.

ryan havely earned his BA from Ohio University and his MFA from Minnesota State. He worked full-time as a professor of English for a while, before moving on to the soul-selling, but well-paying, world of marketing. Lately, he enjoys writing what he calls, “Language Experiments,” although they don’t appear to be as marketable as his traditional forms. His work can be found in such magazines as Midwestern Gothic, Ampersand, Pebble Lake Review, Main Street Rag, and Driftwood Press.