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Poems from Francis Kerr Young
STEEL


In Labrador, men excavate
a frozen hostile land
for ferrous ore to separate
and mill to russet sand.
A process bakes it into balls
of high-grade iron ore
to be transhipped where blizzards roar
through wilderness that caterwauls
the strength of Labrador.

A fleet of frenzied lakers gorge
then wallow through a bay,
nudging growlers aside, they forge
the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
Across the Saintly lakes they creep,
the Seaway down below,
out past Kingston they go.
A Thousand Islands see them sweep
through Lake Ontario.

In Hamilton, unloaders wait
to dump each massive hold
of pelletized concentrate
by tons, a thousandfold.
Up Satan's belfry, steel skips climb
to charge the double bell,
in dusty clouds they dispel
rusty iron ore, coke, and lime,
the grist of fiery Hell.

Tuyeres view the molten pig,
a blast furnace spews;
engines shunt the hot-metal rig
to waiting melt shop crews.
A cauldron mixes, stirs, and turns
a Hell-on-earth morass
in jets of flaming gas;
and iron rages, boils and churns,
a surging, glowing mass.

Pure oxygen, the breath of life,
comes charging up the brew,
erupting, bubbling, sizzling strife
will make the metal true.
Now anthracite blends with argon,
a flaming wild ordeal,
at last! the change is real,
when pure iron cleaves to carbon:
we call the marriage Steel!

When Vulcan anger simmers low,
the moulds are poured and set,
in fiery pits these plinths will glow
as hot as Hell can get.
A slabbing mill awaits the Heat,
its workrolls on the prowl
for prey which makes them growl:
red-fleshed ingots, hot and sweet,
induce this beast to howl.

A blushing slab is coy and shy
to Hot Mill's sleazy oil,
it's grabbed and squeezed then with a sigh
becomes a hot-rolled coil!
Soon pickling tanks remove black scale,
these widow weeds of grey
are scourged by acid spray;
steel strip is cleaned from lead to tail,
a gleaming expose.

The mulct continues all the while
as cold mills start to roll,
steel strip elongates by the mile:
A razor thinness goal.
A furnace glows to hunting pink,
a process to anneal,
its purpose is to seal
with spangled gowns of lustrous zinc
by galvanising steel.

Throughout the world, great presses hum
when stamping steel galore,
Man's whims and needs have all become
the slaves to iron ore.
Our washers, dryers, stoves and fridges,
the hallowed barbecue,
are just to name a few;
coated siding, cars, and bridges,
ploughshares, and beer cans too!

The Age of Steel has been with us
for nigh two hundred year;
in peace and war, it has been thus
but yet, we have this fear:
that someday, someone will up and find
an alternate so drastic
(to some it seems fantastic),
a substitute to blow one's mind,
so keep an eye on plastic!


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