Slag by Leslie Anne
One blue hour simmers on the stove, steam rising
like a slow train up and over the mill line —
still-life burnt in coal, black heat, skin cold-split
in the third shift. The radiator hisses.
Flurries dance on the wind in spun madness. She
presses her hands to the hot pipes, looks out across
the Pittsburgh grey, soaking it in, spreading it like a blanket
across her memory — thick like miner’s dust, an iron door.
She wears gloves to bed, wakes to the itch of wool,
startled by how her fingers feel like someone else’s,
how rough they’ve grown — like a man’s — inside
her winter skin. She pictures the man, bright within
her childhood dream-head like the light at the end
of a shaft. He is twice her size and she can’t see
around him. Warm bourbon breath that melts the snow
before it lands. The game will be played in the big wooden house,
the kitchen floor freshly mopped though no one lives there.
She will like the game because he made it up just for her.
She puts her hands in his flannel pockets and follows.
The sky is wide, the day endless. Somewhere a kettle whistles.
The man’s fingers are dry and hot as he teaches her
how to play. When he kisses her, she kisses back.
It is freezing without her gloves and underwear, but his hands
are a furnace and that is enough. He doesn’t ask her
not to tell. Instead, he points to the smokestacks
across the river still burning, says how the blue fire
from the molten ore can singe your skin off, leave you
cold like steel. Tells her she’ll never feel anything like it.