A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Nicholas Friedman

lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches at Cornell University and helps edit New Walk Magazine.

His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as PN Review, American Arts Quarterly, The Sewanee Theological Review, and others.

—Back to Orsorum Contents/Issue Links—

Inheriting the Ruin [In memory of the fifty dead at Split Rock, July 1918]

“The mediator between head and hands must be the heart.”
—Fritz Lang’s

The Crusher crouches like a headless Moloch
rough with limestone steps—a ziggurat
furred by the creeping thicket.
                                                           What remains
of the munitions factory once there—
a hot metropolis of laborers
scurrying through the smoke and hissing steam
to manufacture powder for the War—
is now an offertory scene inscribed
with pentagrams, an echoless Fuck You,
and swastikas that weep their spray-paint down
its inner walls.
                             As boys, we went to sight
our .22s and drink Olde English there,
crunching the broken glass beneath our feet.


They say a mixing motor was to blame.
One night, charred limbs came down like clotted rain
four thousand miles—a world—west of the Marne.

The hoses failed as blown flames whipped like flags
snapping back on themselves in shifting wind;
still, fire would spare our upwind magazines
and stores of picric acid on the hill.

What didn’t burn was sent to arm our men.
They waited out the summer’s worth of war
to sink the plant back down to hell again.


[Originally published in The Raintown Review.]