Lackawanna, 2012. The brown fields.

no gentrification here
between the steel whale falls of factories
that no longer blow stink into sky
their carcasses pierced through
by new trees threaded through tracks
like rib bones
the wind turbines pinwheel in sync
spinning power from lake wind

lean silver dancing hope
taller than all that rust
as alive as the weeds
siphoning heavy metal & acid from soil
queen anne’s lace
edging empty freight cars
stitched into this  green quilt
unlikely patches of peeled paint
and seized wheels

industry harpooned by change
hungry for large prey

they used to blame the unions
though it really was this metal
could be made faster & cheaper
under poorer skies, hungry
for that smoke belching black clouds
on even a clear day

I remember the night stained
blood-orange brightness to our west
from molten slag poured to cool in the lake

the lake is cleaner now.

we can swim in it
even as the city dies
a main street of empty storefronts
waiting for weeds to claim them too

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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65 Responses to Lackawanna, 2012. The brown fields.

  1. Ian Moone says:

    nice, really like the title

  2. Susan, you took me back many years when I lived in Lackawanna County (Scranton and college in Wilkes Barre). Back then, it was the coal mines that had failed. The economy was so depressed, the elderly, former coal miners suffering from Black Lung disease…and yet I loved that part of the country. Very well-expressed poem. You may want to stop by our poetry community (perhaps you’re already there) at and link this to the group…today through tomorrow is Open Link Night. And if you’re already on board…I’ll keep an eye open for you in the future.

  3. Smiles and welcome!!!

  4. brian miller says:

    this is very good…i think some change is for the better…the cleaner enviro…the difficulty is in replacing the jobs so the people will stay there….there will be a big box store come along sure enough for that though….smiles…nice bit of social comentary…welcome to dverse as well…

  5. This is happening all over the country, and it can be sad. The hope is that in the middle of all this the small pockets of hope expand and become sustainable somehow. Well played.

    Good to see you here, contributing your poetry!

  6. nelle says:

    Powerful stuff, like like like lots. Cities can remake themselves, better in so many ways, cleaner, green, habitable, and I hope this is the fate ahead.

  7. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    There is a lot here. You really do bring out the ambiguity of the situation with the contrast between a dying industrial plant and a (somewhat) cleaner Lake Erie. Maybe it really is the historical moment that we’re living in that cities like Buffalo are either going to be old industrial parks with weeds and trees growing through them or a new and vibrant place with -dare I hope- weeds and trees growing through them.

    There is so much here to comment on. I am not even sure where to begin. All I can say right now is that if you feel like writing more about this please do!!!

  8. doncarroll says:

    nice piece involving your area there. it’s about the same here. big stuff moves out and then a bunch of retail moves in and than they say we are creating jobs.

    • yes, replace high-paying union jobs with…no other word but “crap” jobs. I’m with Jeremy–I want a job oiling those turbines, but union scale, please 🙂

  9. I liked it before, I like it again now.

  10. Wow. Sounds like my hometown. Excellent. The imagery is fantastic!

  11. This really spoke to me and I love your diction! I helped start a nonprofit arts center down by the river, in a run down former anchor and bolt factory. This was like having a friend walk me down memory lane.

  12. Gay says:

    This is my first visit to your blog and so happy to have found it. This piece is fierce and so identifiable. These places are all over the country but you so eloquently give us both blessings and curses of the modern era, and yet so vividly that its beauty is quite spellbinding. Your images are a feast and their implications far and deep. Brilliant.

  13. Uneven Stephen says:

    Wow. Amazing imagery. I love the end on a high note.

  14. Rene Foran says:

    beautiful, vivid imagery. the last stanza is powerful

  15. tashtoo says:

    Susan! This is amazing…you have so captured the essences of so many factory towns, the despair that comes with the closing down, the weeds taking over, and I love the promise of Mother Nature rebounding…while we continue to suffer the karmic cleanse…a stunning and all too real and timely write for many. Looking forward to reading lots more of your work in dVerse Year 2! 🙂

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  18. It is nice to read your poem, not in haiku in which I am used to. I like the hopeful note in the end, hopefully we learn to better care for our environment ~


  19. Brian Carlin says:

    There’s a lot to like here, your word choice is exact and right, with nary a word wasted, won’t repeat my favourite bits, I’d be here all day… Good work!

  20. kelly says:

    such a wonderful lament, filled with all the contradictions that are life. i, too, know places like this. progress comes in so many disguises.

    • Thank you Kelly! Yet, in the midst of all of the rusting, there is life in the weeds and windmills. Stubborn, persistent life that will prevail while our artificial constructs fade.

  21. A double-edged elegy. . .sadly beautiful.

  22. Made me think of our stinky pulp mills not shut down for air polution. Back in the day they used to say, “Smell that? Thats money.”

  23. David King says:

    Beautifully done: the loveliness of the writing emphasising the ugliness in the subject.

  24. vivinfrance says:

    A wonderful, thought-provoking poem. Have we merely shifted our pollution, to where they are less able to counteract it?

  25. kaykuala says:

    The green revolution is here to stay. Things are pretty nice and clean.The sooty coal industry may find it difficult to survive in such a context. Great write Susan!


  26. mimijk says:

    What fantastic imagery..Susan, you’re really, really talented!! I’m so glad I ‘found’ you through Rhonda! What a treat!

  27. This is my favorite part:

    “I remember the night stained
    blood-orange brightness to our west
    from molten slag poured to cool in the lake”

  28. Daydreamer says:

    Pollution stinks! I love the way you wrote this! We can swim in it, even as the city dies…very powerful!

  29. Wander says:

    Life brought about by transition, may be tough for those involved but much better for the environment


  30. David Eric Cummins says:

    You described this so perfectly! I’ve lived around the rusting remains of abandoned industry here in Western New York all my life. Your words capture it exactly.

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