“Living Coal and Steel”

by Susan Urbanek Linville

They sailed in steerage
Those huddled masses
Yearning to be free

Wops, Polaks, Honkies
Dreaming golden streets
Living coal and steel

Their calloused hands
Coaxed iron furnaces
Into erupting smelters

Their blood and bone
Filled rocky tombs
Collapsed without warning

Sweat tempered I-beams
Birthed riveted towers
Forged tracks and trestles
Stretched from sea to sea

They sailed in steerage
Those men with soot-blackened faces
Lifting this country up

Until their backs gave way