Chemistry of Ferry in the Fifties
By Don Iannone
Hardworking sons and daughters of immigrant warriors.
accustomed to long days and even longer nights.
Folks who sleep with their windows open during the summertime,
and pray for a breeze--
even the slightest,
to dry the sweat trickling down the middle of their aching backs.
Silently worrying in their dark bedrooms,
about money, family, and health,
and hoping there really is a God,
who can provide a miracle ending their pain.
Even in all this suffering,
there is a deeper chemistry that makes up these people--
their hopes, dreams and struggles.
Men who cash their paychecks on Friday evenings
at the local A&P grocery store, and
who always forget something on their wives’ shopping lists.
Men with steel-hard hands with sandpaper rough calluses
from turning wrenches,
and pounding smoothness into bowed steel sheets.
Men who awkwardly hug their children,
hoping the chemistry helps them find their way in life,
without too much pain and sorrow.
Like their parents and grandparents,
the people of Martins Ferry restlessly search for the dream.
You know...the American Dream.
Like the thick lazy streams of smoke
drifting from the chimneys atop their houses,
their dreams form heavy 1950s clouds,
keeping them from seeing beyond today's bills,
and their sick child who must go to the doctor.
Children shoot marbles…cat's eyes and boulders
under the giant tree on the Elm School playground.
The sun breaks free of the clouds for just a moment,
but long enough to keep the faint hope alive
that they inherit early from their stern, hardworking parents—
who complain about their materialistic children
and how they will never come to visit them
on Sunday afternoons when they grow old.
There is a chemistry about a place,
particularly the place where you grew up.
It lingers in your soul,
quietly waiting for the right moment to come out.
in how you greet strangers,
whether you shine your shoes in the morning,
how generous you are with your smile,
especially when you don't feel loved.
It even makes a cameo appearance in how you cut your grass.
The chemistry of Martins Ferry can be as rancid
as the dead catfish fishermen leave
along the shores of the Mighty Ohio, and
it can be as sweet and peaceful,
as the sun-filled clover fields,
inviting young boys to lie on their backs and dream
about far-off places they will visit someday.
the chemistry makes us who we are.
Written in memory of James Wright, Martins Ferry's poet son.
Inspired by my adventuresome childhood friend, Dan Shimp.