Where it Goes by Martina Reisz Newberry

Where it Goes features a photograph by Eleanor Bennett


One of my favorite poems in Where it Goes by Martina Reisz Newberry is Blooms. This has to be an all-American poem but it could be an every-town poem, which is better. It is the kind of poem that breathes with so much time and life it may be one of those Albino Carillo was talking about in his endorsement. I know the day I brought home the proof, and the day I bring home the proof copy of a book from the printer is a special day because I remember it is one of my moments, a what-it’s-all-about moment, and I read this poem, and I did cry.







My father helped Mister Hudson move his old fridge out to the garage
and move the new one into the kitchen. Daddy worked at Kaiser Steel
in Fontana shoveling slag and minding the Open Hearth. Mr. Hudson
worked at Upland Savings and Loan. He wore a suit and a nasty face and
he hated the neighborhood kids. But Daddy helped him anyway and
turned down the five dollars he was offered, told old Hudson “Naah, we’re
neighbors after all” and thanked him anyway. Second Avenue was old and
shaded with big pepper trees. They shook at the slightest breeze, grew
malformed fungi at the base of their trunks.


The gritty winds came down
from Mt. Baldy. The sand
smelled like copper, gleamed
like copper


On Saturday, when Daddy’s friends came to visit with their permed
floozies in tow:  Andy Kushner with “Penny” and Bob Trow with
“Brenda.”  They all got loose on beers and shots of Old Crow and Daddy
told about moving Hudson’s fridge. Andy Kushner, pinched his girl’s cheek
with a thumb and a forefinger knobbed as tree twigs, kissed the red spot
and said, “It won’t make the old bastard any friendlier, Jack.”  “Why sure it
will,” Daddy said, “he can’t get any damned UNfriendlier” and everybody
laughed like crazy. The room filled with cigarette smoke and the flexing
of calloused hands and the smell of Evening in Paris perfume. Brenda’s
stockings, brand new from Sears Roebuck, got a run in them and she cried
a little. Everyone went out onto the front porch and looked up.


The sky glowed like the night
was on fire and maybe it was
and the sounds and colors
of the mill split the sky


This all happened a good 20 years before the mill closed and the skies
above Fontana and Rialto and Etiwanda went blue and maybe even clean.
Before I went off to college, we drove, my father and I, to the closed-up
mill and the deserted shells of the machine shops and the blast furnaces
and the empty soaking pits where only the ghosts of ingots lay cooling. We
went right up to where he used to work—the locks on the gates weren’t


It all looked cold and unfriendly like old Mr. Hudson’s face. It was such
dirty work, such hard work I said, but my father said, “Naah. I was grateful
because it gave us a living.”  On the way home, we passed Dominic’s Bar,
closed as well. All the men had drunk there and stayed too late there and
left their lunch pails there and left their smelted dreams there at one time
or another.


Walking out of the mill,
the men grinned, faces so dirty
their teeth looked whitewashed
fierce in the gloaming


Walking into Dominic’s
Beer tasting of hops and grime
Hard-boiled eggs, sausage
out of jars, into steel fists


I wish we could go here again, I said. I wish I was still 9 years old and
Momma and I could meet you at Dominic’s after work and I would have
a hard-boiled egg and a sip of your beer and a Shirley Temple for myself. I
wish Dominic’s never closed.
My father said, “Me too,” and flexed his fingers. Dominic’s sign was falling
off the building,
My father tried to fix it. I saw Andy Kushner trying to help him. They
couldn’t get it fastened back up.


A week later, I was on my way to San Jose State College, wanted to be a
librarian and a writer. My father hugged me hard, told me, “You’re the
daughter of a working man, a steel worker. Be proud of that.”  I wasn’t
proud right then, but I got proud some 25 years later when an elitist bitch
told me I couldn’t write worth a tinker’s damn because I didn’t have a
degree. I got proud then and told her about my father and told her she
ought to be slapped, but not to worry because I wasn’t into slapping and I
left her class and didn’t go back.


In my dreams, my father
glides over hot rolled blooms
and billets. His shovel makes
sparks that bounce off his grin


The alarm sounds and the door
goes up to show the molten river
red as blood and hot enough
to rival hell


My father guides that river
right out into the sky where
the stars drink of it
and continue to shine


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