The Bethlehem Blues Fest

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Contributor: Ron Yazinski

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(For H.D.)

Against the September night,
Cool blue lights wash the colossal rusting stacks
That were the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel.

This is not the pure white light that jewels the Parthenon,
With its columns in the golden ratio of a man’s body;
Where the virgin goddess once guarded the Athenian treasure
And accepted her people’s solemn song,
As they led the sacred bull to sacrifice in her honor,
Thanking her for the blessed olive,
And her protection in time of war.

Rather, it is the ghost of the machine that is conjured,
Here, in Bethlehem, where the American Century was born;
Where the genius of utility was based not on some vague myth in an old poem,
But on the heart of the periodic table.
The monstrous size of the furnaces,
The perfect metaphor for the profits that the owners made,
And their egos that transformed the earth into beams for skyscrapers
That humbled Babylon;
That slung bridges over mighty brown rivers,
That forged rails that bound the country
Like a mad patient in an asylum.

Here the raw materials of coal and ore and men
Were transformed in the fumes and heat,
Into sheets of steel stamped out by gigantic presses
Into the battleships and engines that drove the Twentieth Century,
Leaving behind ashes and spilled molten iron,
And the dried sweat of consumable lives.

It’s all closed now, gone the way any religion
Or venture does,
When a more efficient process comes along.
And because it’s unprofitable to tear it down,
It’s been turned into a museum with a performing arts center,
Where tonight blues musicians growl out their tunes before a wall of windows,
Behind which the massive stacks loom.

At night, walking at the foot of the Acropolis,
One might imagine ancient songs of praise
Or pleas to Athena to guard the beloved city.
Here, in Bethlehem, are the blues.

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Ron Yazinski is a retired English teacher, who divides his time between Northeastern Pennsylvania, which has all the charm of an underground parking garage, and Winter Garden, Florida.


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