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Friday, February 17, 2006


by Patricia Smith Ranzoni

Remarkable when you think it over,
raised in that bowl of papermill spew
his parents brought him to
where so many others' lungs and vitals
have grown in and gone down
and the Francos and Indians fighting it
and their mates and children fighting it
after they've gone into the ground
and fighting-back people all over the state
fighting it and the other mute smokestacks
to no avail. Try to find out how many tons
of particulates and immeasurable plumes
they're allowed, the way I did again
when my old man's kidney grew beyond
itself, and see for yourself the suppression.
Not even news anymore than any rain
over us all is news, even ho-hum lethal,
but Tom's turning 70 on the 17th beating
the odds chewing whatever grows here
with deadly juices in its stems and leaves,
papermaking belch and leech the sweet sap
in the timothy stalk he'll suck between his
teeth and swallow another summer
my mill father's brother no longer
cramming verse into his lunch basket
turning 70 the 17th but forever a union man
and Maine poet just the same what's new?

Patricia Smith Ranzoni was born and has lived in papermill towns nearly her entire life. Her father and uncles and most of her neighbors have worked for them, and her mother wrapped paper in one during WWII. Her children have had various part-time work through them, including cutting and hauling pulp to sell there with their father. She received scholarship aid for graduate work from one and once wrote for a local papermill's retirement program. She has one of the neuro-muscular disorders more common in regions with papermills. Tom is her friend.