PoetryWinter 2023

Hear the Wind Blow — Krikor Der Hohannesian

    in memory of John Beecher

1953, westbound from Boston
on the Lake Shore Limited, steel
whining on steel through Berkshire pines,
skirting the hems of Ontario
and Erie—we hadn’t yet reached Gary but
you could smell it miles out—the sickly sweet
of sulfur and God knows what else
on the prevailing westerly.
Blood orange sun setting, dusk
daubed with brushstrokes of rose and red.
Postcard perfect, so we thought,
until we hit the city limits,
its copse of pencil-thin smokestacks
spewing a haze of bile green, burnt umber,
smoky orange and purple, blast furnaces
aroar with white-hot heat sucking oxygen
from the air, the Bessemer converters
ridding pig iron of impurities, a shrew’s brew
of ammonia, benzene and hydrochloric—
an underworld foundry here on Earth. And who

remembers Donora?—only five years earlier
when 70 died—gagged on smog from steel
and zinc plants, the inversion of air,
the trapped poisons without a breath
of wind to purge the valley.

I think of Beecher, his poems—
the Birmingham mills in the 20s—
of Old Man John the Melter,
who knew good steel by the look of it,
wouldn’t tap it ‘til it was right,
the pourers, casters and rollers—
how Beecher himself worked those mills
until the accident, felt the prevailing winds,
stood tall for steely men and Mother Earth.
His reward? —Blackballed
in the 1950s witch-hunts
for not signing a loyalty oath.


Krikor Der Hohannesian’s poems have appeared in over 275 literary journals including The South Carolina Review, Atlanta Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, Comstock Review and Natural Bridge. He is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and author of three books, “Ghosts and Whispers” (Finishing Line Press, 2010), “Refuge in the Shadows” (Cervena Barva Press, 2013) and “First Generation” (Dos Madres Press, 2020).“Ghosts and Whispers” was a finalist for the Mass Book awards poetry category in 2011. First Generation was selected as a “must read” by Mass Book Awards in 2021.


The author: Debra Marquart