The Recipe for Steel by David Salner

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Push in your ear plugs!
Put on your work gloves!

Load the furnace with iron or scrap, 
jam the electrodes down, feel the building shake!

Then pull your visor over your face
and open the furnace door, but don’t slip; 
toss in a shovel of manganese; five rocks of chromium;
two or three ingots of shiny magnesium; 
rake the cinders of slag from the sizzling lake; 
three blasts with the oxygen lance
and watch how the surface burps.

We know the recipe for steel. We, casters and pourers;
furnace, shakeout, or crane operators;
laborers on the wheel or the ovens;
inspectors, samplers, lab workers,  
forklift drivers, and janitors;
addicts, artists, and organizers;
rats, backstabbers, and saints.

We pour steel for everything
from skyscrapers to flush valve handles; 
school buses to espresso machines or demitasse spoons; 
cruise ships bound for Cozumel in December, Alaska in June; 
girders for the magnificent football arenas of mediocre universities;
narrow-gage sheeting for milk tanks
and whatever it takes to make think tanks.

And when it gets twisted by hurricane, melted or wrecked
by a smart-ass dropping his so-called smart bomb,
we’ll recast it from ashes and scrap
into oxygen cylinders, musical instruments, 
hospital trays, and library carts.


 Photo of David Salner

Photo of David Salner

David Salner has worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, bus driver, cab driver, longshoreman, teacher, baseball usher and librarian. His writing appears in recent issues of Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, Salmagundi, Beloit Poetry Journal, North American Review, Nashville Review, and many other magazines. He is the author of Blue Morning Light (2016, Pond Road Press). Learn more about David here.