Volume 14:4, Fall 2013
Prose Poem Issue
A small West Virginia town has a library, the library has a mural, and the mural depicts the folk tale of Joe Magarac. Joe was the best steel worker ever, they say, because he was made of steel himself. When the mill ran out of iron ore one day, Joe hopped into the vat and melted himself down. The steel they made that day, they say, was the best steel ever made. The artist painted the mural with sharp lines and bright colors. He painted muscled mechanics and iron-jawed welders. He painted farmers in the fields and miners at the coal face. He painted in the socialist realism style of his time, the nineteen-thirties, the kind of art often seen above a caption reading, Record Wheat Harvest or Five Year Plan a Success. He painted Joe sitting in the vat, serene expression on his face, his fingers melting into ingots, coils, blooms, I-beams, strip steel. When I was a boy the mural scared the crap out of me. I worried that a plunge into the vat might be the punishment for kids who talked too loudly in the library or whose borrowed books were overdue. I worried that my father might get melted down like that. Dad worked in the mill like Joe. Dad was made of steel, too. Today I wonder, Why the mural? Why that myth? Why the library? Mostly I wonder, Why dont they make steel here anymore?
The phrase Big Bang was invented by a physicist who didnt believe in the theory. Be careful what you believe. Be careful with your words. I know dark matter exists because of how it makes the stars move. Dark matter makes up ten times more than what we see. All the planets and the stars and the other shiny stuff, mere drops in the universal bucket. Hard to find because its transparent, dark matter bends the light, shows us the back side of a star, makes time elastic. Yet dark matter emits no light itself, sends out no radio waves. Dark matter gives away nothing. Selfish, selfish dark matter. And I can prove everything I say with an experiment, simply by turning up the heat to 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 degrees. And Im talking Celsius now, so you can take off that sweater. Sing me a song that cant be heard. Paint me a picture with pigments that cant be seen. Touch me from an infinite distance. Speak to me, with your dark words.
Flavian Mark Lupinetti is a writer and cardiac surgeon. He obtained his MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His previous publications include Barrelhouse, Bellevue Literary Review, The Examined Life, Cutthroat, Kestrel, Red Rock Review, and ZYZZYVA.