Sulphur Sky, Clare Arentzen

[Trigger Warning: Molestation of Minor Mention]

You couldn’t live in that town and escape the steel mill. When they graduated from Hopewell High, a disappointment of its own, they walked right off the stage and kept walking, right on down to the mill. Rows of grey lunch boxes filled with home ec success, waiting to feed dark empty bellies. The girls found themselves a steel mill guy to wed, married at eighteen, pregnant with success. Food stamps to accidents, benefiting from father’s newfound lunacy. Lunacy’s their fault, but poverty is still passed down from Pa.

If you strip me down bare I look just like them. Deep blue veins on pale sunless skin. Stout from the Italians, plump from the Polish. They all had headaches from the mill. They all had cracked hands and dirty nails. My head throbs from dangers in the womb.

There were always delusions at the breakfast table and fear of grandfathers who caress more than hands. Love shouldn’t let that happen. My great-grandmother sighs and says, “Ignorant hands build ignorant towns.” We’re all slaves to the mental disease we breed. “Promise me you’ll grow away. Promise me you’ll bury three generations of suffering into one compact sentence.” They ran from the Germans in Europe to struggle in the mills of Aliquippa so that I could free their memories. Alzheimer’s runs in our family.

About the Author

Jillian Jackman, University of Georgia

A 2011 graduate of the University of Georgia, Jillian Jackman majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is now working on a small collection of prose poems for children. Jillian volunteers with youth seeking direction, and is an avid mixtape maker, stray cat chaser, gelato enthusiast. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

About the Artist

Clare Arentzen, Princeton University

Clare Arentzen is an avid artist from the beautiful land of corn known as Illinois. Her academic interests include biology and, of course, art, which she hopes to continue to pursue at Princeton.

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