Streetcars thunder over brick streets as
you ride from work each day of your single life,
covered in steel mill soot. Not a care
in the world then you like to remind me,
now that you are a mother of six
looking back to a past that started
as a competition — most useful things
do, you say. Westinghouse proved his point
at Niagara Falls, while Edison practiced
his trade as chief executioner at West Orange.
Poor Edison, his ego crushed, he listened
to his tinny phonograph with his good ear,
his head tilted like the white dog in the trademark.
You used to smile at the bright sound
of a trolley bell, the Pavlovian smell of ozone,
showers of sparks in the polluted afternoon
like some youthful blessing. Trembling tendons
carry the alternating current through steel arms —
blind conductors compelling lightning from heaven,
directing useful things to streets scarred
by girder rails, now buried relics in asphalt,
like holy cards between random pages of unread scripture.