EXPLODED VIEW

Fall 2012: Issue 92

Jake Adam York

While he slept, I read my father’s books,

brought home from the furnace,

traced the diagrams—channels, ladles of iron,

 

oxygen lances—trying to follow

the metal’s path, to follow the work

that took him each night into the dark,

 

flame to the coal’s dark, the dark

gone bright while the rest of us slept.

The door closed like a storybook . . .

 

While he worked, the furnace flamed

in dream, and I tried to follow

through the swarm of yellowjackets,

 

hot wings of iron, but they were just

outlines in my dream, dream,

not iron, not fire in the dark—just spray

 

from one rare story I tried to follow.

I tried to follow, but even he

didn’t want to go, not even

 

in story, the blanks in the books’

diagrams all ash, all flame. All silence,

he seemed to say. But silence

 

is a furnace, too, where work

disappears, where breath is turned

to iron. And night is a furnace, too,

 

where sleep, where dark are burned away

like words until the books are blank,

and there’s nothing left to follow.

 

I tried, listening as he eased the stairs,

clicked the door, then drove away,

his engine lost in the trains’ low drone,

 

strained to hear him turning,

ten miles away, pages in the book of iron,

the story he told by not telling,

 

the dark in which the furnace always rests.

So, the furnace is a father, too,

whose story you cannot follow,

 

a shadow sitting loud in the dark,

while the quiet hardens in his lungs,

 

and the father is a story, too,

you cannot follow,

a book fed slowly to the fire,

 

a fire, worked, at last,

to two black tongues of iron.