Larry Smith

Inside the Noise

Yes, there were coal mines, and steel mills, and factories. All of them grinding away at the edge of things — thin shudder of the earth that we lived with, echoing roar of river inside the hills.

It grew inside us.

It was the sound of a furnace under the floor shaking the boards at our feet. Men and women who worked long in it dissolved to ­deafness, began to speak with hands. Those who lived along its edge learned to turn away.

Birds flitted close to the ground.

Open any window, close any door, it was there, a slow and steady rain that fell over everything. It was a death rattle there in our chest, and our lives were clothes hanging out on the line without rest.

Everyone knew but no one spoke.

— from The House of Poverty