Travis Stephens


The Ironworkers Noontime by Thomas P. Anschutz

Logs snapping in the fire
rain out in the yard.
Greg Brown on the stereo
singing songs about the heartland
where getting up again is
too hard.
Spring & everything after sounds like
a valentine gone south,
broken guitar strings,
a mumbled serenade to
a woman we’ve all met
& let go by.

Poets hang out by the Uniroyal
Plant ‘cause Armour has closed.
We drink beer in winter, wishing
Julia Ann were less bold as she
takes change for the jukebox
and plays, over and over, over,
She Bop, you Bop, we Bop.
A song someone said is about
& they believe it.
Eventually someone punches in
the one Claudia Schmidt
left on the ‘box: “Baby
It’s Cold Outside.”
Irony died a slow death.

The same river as
below the plant
tickles the belly of errant swans
on the Minnesota border.
It is the color of tea,
black pekoe, from a cradle
in a tamarack swamp.
Cerulean blue sky reflection.
The same river ignores
the treaty signed in 1838 between
Sioux & Chippewa
effectively ending the flight of Chippewa
chased by the Iroquois
who gained rifles from the French,
the English & whoever else
liked beaver pelts & Native girls.
A historical marker in the weeds
dedicated to a Treaty Oak
cut down years ago.

Eventually the ice
will go to wherever it came from.
Trees will try on new leaves.
We will ignore the fact
that even in the greenest
months, beneath a jacket
of chlorophyll the dirt is
forever brown,
a little sour.


About the writer:
Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. An alumni of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include 2River, Sheila-Na-Gig, Hole in the Head Review, GRIFFEL, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

Image: The Ironworkers Noontime by Thomas Pollock Anschutz (1851-1912). Oil on canvas. 17 x 23.8 inches. 1880. Public domain.