Passing Along the Light

By William Doreski

This massive rusty blast furnace complex suggests an abandoned cathedral. I wish it could squat here for several lifetimes until it collapses in sheaves of corrosion. But long before then, someone will buy it for scrap. Too bad: we’re so monumental when it comes to industry and religion. Consider that basilica in Krakow with all the gold bas-relief smiling upon awed parishioners. I don’t believe in the sculpture, the ivory-white crucifix, the azure vaulting dazed with glitter-stars; but I do accept the light of the stained-glass windows, the same light this industrial ruin absorbs. That’s the difference between religion and industry: one passes along the light, the other keeps it for itself. I’m not sure which does which, though. The black robes of priests absorb all sorts of radiance, while the blast furnaces, when they were operating, spilled fiery orange molten steel emitting more heat and light than the spirit could bear. The great churches will survive, preserved by common instinct, while the industrial past deconstructs in clatter and gnashing. But which do you think most clearly embodies us? I look up at these towering lifeless furnaces and want so badly to believe.

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared here and there. He’s from a thoroughly working-class background and in recent years has often found himself writing about industrial and urban ruins.

 

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