The Geometric Lover

30 May 1991

Part 1: Train Dream

Track one, two, three -- Wilkes-Barre bound.
Cars sweep by me so quickly:
Boxcars, and those new round
Chemical cars like rusty sausages with
Ladders and wheels. Small sulfuric
Decals pass my window, too quick
To read: 'ide and 'ate are the
Only chemical endings I can catch.
Cars pass by, blurry as smoke-stack smog.
Rust is predominant.

I stare through the glass in this passenger car
And can't say if it is a dream or a
Vision, but it is here that I am
Acquainted with a lady who I am
Compelled to call The Geometric Lover.
She is outside and tells me how
Train tracks and boxcars are her soul.
Structures..., she says in the manner of
Beginning some great poem. Then
She transforms herself into giant rusty flying shears,
Slaloming old telephone poles outside,
Clipping the wires as she flies between them.

Later, she is floating over the ell like some
Omniscient ghost. She whispers to only me,
The great geometric wonders of the journey,
Like the Horse-Shoe Curve in Altoona.
No one notices a train, she says
As we pass through a large city.
Men rake their leaves and don't look up,
The fighting kids over there don't look up.
Two furless dogs, look, right next to the tracks;
They remain asleep.

I stop looking at her for one moment to
Note a stretch of colored boxcars:
Blue, red, black,
Red, blue, black,
Red, blue, red,
Black, black, black.
I wonder who arranged these, but
Notice the spirit has faded.

The train ignores old railway stations,
Perhaps a whistle
For the platforms on which men
Once waited with their leather cases,
But it doesn't stop, and hasn't for years.
After several hours, the trip is over.


Part 2: Stegmaier Brewery

Now, the walls here are painted
By graffiti artists and lovers.
However, the tail end of a larger spirit
Can still be seen here;

     A spirit who was a lover of
     Strong standing structures,
     Of iron-clad architecture,
     An enemy of plastics,
     And synthetic materials.

It is nearly gone from here,
Its tail caught on pointy glass shards
Of vandalized windows.

I am standing beside two boilers;
They are giants longing to be
Filled with steam.
The sun has
Gone behind a cloud,
So I walk into another room:

Part 3: Talk with the Geometric Lover

The sun drips once more
Through clouded gaskets
And a room is lit up, full of
Valves and pipes which disappear,
Like limbs and branches of a steel tree,
Into holes in the ceiling.

My Geometric Lover seeps out
Of a pipe like a Dryad.
The shadows, she says, are beautiful
From their mathematical shapes
To the function of their change as
The sun rises and sets.

I tell her that I like them too;
The iron window grids, now empty
Or occasionally filled with broken glass,
The hot winds that whistle through,

Industry, she says,
Smoke stacks and trains,
Frames and iron blades;
These are my foundation! --
Cat walks and fire escapes,
Oh, love me--

She moves to embrace me
As the sun falls, again,
Behind a cloud.

Part 4: Machine Company 1883

A place near Hollenback Cemetary
Lies so old and ruined,
Spirits may have even left the bricks.
Walking into the turbine room,
I watch a yellow leaf, caught in a spider's web,
Appearing to float in an empty window frame.

The wheel no longer turns, but
Is bigger than that of any locomotive.
An inscription reads Machine Company 1883.
Perhaps once it could have controlled time,
Or have started the Susquehanna flowing,
Or ventilated all of Wilkes-Barre's mines.
There is no way of knowing; only guessing will do.

Outside, the sumac thrives, and the
Weeds are so old here, they're trees
That look as exotic as tropical palms.
They hide the river and cemetary view.

Now I'm sitting atop a round iron
Structure, stomping ants and swatting
Black flies from my nose.
In the dense jungle-weeds, I can't tell
If the buildings are stacked,
But I'm at least three-high,
Eye-level with Wyoming Valley's mountains.

There's a chimney next to me, unreachable.
I can only see that it still vents down,
But to where, I do not know.

My Geometric Lover escapes the chimney
And says, Weed-pointed leaves
And iron rivet shanks are my soul.
She is a ghost
With a huge hooped dress, made of
Bolted sanguine metal sheets,
Stitched with copper wire and
Laced with sprockets.
She stands atop a lower roof in the jungle-structures.

I'd love to photograph you here, I say
As I look down at her,
Because you are beautiful.
I pause to glance at a black wasp, beside me,
Interested in mining through a rusty spot.

She vanishes.

  1. The Stegmaier Brewery mentioned in the poem refers to a landmark building in the town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It is a truly exciting piece of architecture and is also, unfortunately, a great ruin. It stands as a constant reminder of the once-thriving spirit and economy of the area when coal was king.
  2. Hollenback is an old cemetery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, home to some monumental tombstones of the early coal barons. Also a landmark to the turn of the century class stratification, then more defined. It's neighboring cemetery, the unkept Wilkes-Barre City Cemetery, was for the common and the poor.

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