Refinery Lines

Refinery Lines

Refinery Lines 1999 1500 Jason Ramsey

I sewed the wind into comfort for you.
I whitened black night with burning
glass and blackened white lies with
sooted ash. I sat, faceless,
shawl-covered on concrete floors,
shame built on refinery lines and
stolen silence from the past. I let
you cower. I watched as levers churned
out bleak horizons, as pulleys separated
welders’ hands from wrists, as spinning
mules spooled sin in shadow factories
against grain, mill, seed — artifacts
lost when day yielded to night but
night never relinquished to day.

Faint shrieks hammered like machines.
Gears cranked and coiled. Copper dust
flecked like snakeskin — anthills
of metal ash at the feet of sallow
dreams. I saw color, light, motion.
Glimpses of breath, of life, of
obtuse pallor, of ages when reverence
arose and set with the sun. I followed
assemblies rifted by railways, hollowed
from rivets, harrowed with the plight
of healing saints. I stared headlong at
the flood, my eyes bulbs in cages
obscured by split wires; frayed
circuitry pardoned for stowing light.


Jason Ramsey

Jason Ramsey is the founder and executive director of ALTARWORK and Amity Coalition. He's married with five kids - including two sets of twins - and walks the tightrope of family, job, and ministry with both eagerness and unease. He gravitates towards mental health advocacy, social and religious equality, hard-life fiction, classical liturgy, modern worship, the Detroit Tigers, and all things Michigan State University. His writing has been featured at Patheos, Venn Magazine, The Mudroom, and The Bees Are Dead, among others. Connect with him below!

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  • “Refinery Lines” os one fine poem.

  • That should have been “is.”

  • Dude, you’ve out done yourself with this little gem!

  • Jason, I’m assuming you mean steel refinery, yes? I’m not too close to them–history or place-wise–but I imagine you’ve captured their effects quite well. The industrial age…such a two-edged sword.

    • Hi Jody! Thanks for reading, and for the kind words. I didn’t want to specify – steel, oil, etc. – but instead wanted a more overarching concept of post-industrial dystopia. But I agree, a two-edged sword indeed.

  • I can’t exactly say I “understand” this poem, at least not yet, but it’s really impressive. It gives me the idea that mechanization and industry are upsetting the natural rhythms and rites of life — we crave resources for our comfort, but at what cost? That image of the speaker “shawl-covered,” sitting on the concrete floor, is really powerful to me.

    • Thanks for reading, Jeannie. Your interpretation is a very good one, indeed. I think you understand it more than most. 🙂

  • Mary Langer Thompson January 27, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    The first line really draws the reader in. Good poem.

  • Stephanie Thompson February 1, 2017 at 12:01 am

    The description is so detailed. My mind created vivid images through your story. My brother-in-law lives in Steubenville, Ohio-once the heart of the steel industry. Now, the streets of beautiful mansions, once housing the executives, give way to many empty deteriorating shells.