Mary Petrosky

I'd like to say it didn't
touch me. But you can't live
cheek to jowl
with a refinery
and not have oil
ooze into your pores,
that pale brown sky
wipe its grimy breeze on you.
Gritty's something that
happens to you, like hydrocarbons
in catalytic cracking: kerosene
sinking, butane rising, asphalt
settling out. Things
being siphoned off.

It wasn't until three years
after my father died
I figured out
what a pipe fitter does.
He was a man in a fedora
who knew
his coefficients of expansion.
Me, I obsess over metal's
contraction, how
with a sip of air
I can taste polymers
forming. It has its uses,
grit; it keeps your tongue
sharp, your heart crusty.
I thought I'd scrubbed it
all away. But every time
a whistle blows, I look
to the west, expecting
that fireball orange sunset.


Photo (detail) by Mary Petrosky