Bangor, PA

The third highest per capita pregnancy

rate for high schoolers in America in 1990

to go along with an undefeated football team,

maybe the best in this Keystone state,

a team filled with boys raised big on homegrown

corn. The Slaters. Our mascot, a miner of slate,

a double sided pick over his shoulder, but, in honesty,

maybe he should be an out-of-work, down-

on-his-luck miner, the pick leaned against

a long oak bar, our slate industry now dead,

not one active quarry dug into these hills, yet still

we have thirty-six taverns and bars for six

thousand women and men, mostly men, bars in

the small wheezing heart of city center,

bars in South Bangor, taverns in East Bangor,

in Martin’s Creek and Portland and Lower Mount

Bethel, those satellite communities, orbiting

our blink-and-you-missed-it, left-behind-by-the-

highway-took-all-the-traffic-to-Wind-Gap, dead star

of a town, bars on the black back roads, bars

tucked inside gun stores, buy a rifle, buy a Yuengling,

take some ammo and a thirty pack to go.

Those now abandoned quarries pockmark

our hills like zits, quarries now filled with frigid

water even in hottest summer, bottoms

so deep that we cannot even dream toward it,

only death survives in that darkness. Days,

we swim in cut-off jeans, nights, we abandon

clothes, tossed into useless piles like gathered

autumn leaves, beer cans scattered like buckshot

across brittle rock. Everything here is brittle,

even those nights in frigid water, in love, or what

we called love, maybe lust, maybe running, maybe

need like oxygen, like breathing through the necks

of those Yuenglings. Beside quarry water, fields of

emerald cow corn, not even sweet enough to eat.

Is that some kind of metaphor for Bangor? Beside those

fields, old slouching homes slouching toward dark soil,

a few scattered subdivisions infected with the first

wave of Jerseyites who ran here to run from higher

taxes or to work beside us in our factories, each factory

coughing into its own demise—Hoffman Roach, Atlas,

PP&L, BASF, Met Ed, Bethlehem Steel, and the others.

All with names like sad songs, all converting something

into something else—energy or cement or paint or

vitamins—and after we’ve worked here seventeen years

of third shift, these factories spit out the toxic waste

that was once the promise of our Bangor lives.