This once-

shiny metal door

flat to the sidewalk

that admits power company electricians

to runs of buried cables

carries a skim coat

of scum: dirt first, on which grows

moss that catches

fallen twigs and leaves

mashed in by footsteps and rain, the thick coat

muddy and scented

as something obscure

remembered from childhood, something

once experienced

by a wandering six-year-old

mill-town boy

stopped by such a door, its presence

faintly familiar, a door

work-worn and gently yielding—yet

still holding the boy

as he ventured on it, then bounced on it:

a meaningful

but murky experience

that became—if no more clear—


after he ran home for a baked-bean supper

prepared by his ladling mother

for his extended family

of work-worn, gently yielding,

French Canadian millhands.


Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry Eastand The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit