by Elizabeth Stoessl
How many U. S. roads with that name might show up in some universal gazetteer if such a thing existed? There was a Canning Factory Road in her hometown, but it wasn’t called that until long after the factory closed and the last of the owner-family dynasty had died, long after the last of the canned peas and corn and beets and applesauce were loaded on trains or trucked away. The site stood desolate for years until it became a weekend stage for flea markets and craftsmen’s stalls. She couldn’t walk through those booths of silver earrings and quilted tea cozies without summoning the smell of rotting corn, the stickiness of it smeared in her hair and eyelashes, the squish of it inside her yellow rubber gloves, and the hazard of the sharp knives she wielded to slice out worms from the ears while foremen watched to make sure she didn’t miss too many squirming worms or chop away too much viable corn-flesh. Most of all she recalled assembly-line ennui, relieved by silent recitations of the only poetry she could remember from high school, lines force-fed by teachers to whom she was suddenly grateful for their compulsory assignments of Edgar Guest and Ella Wheeler Wilcox and James Whitcomb Riley. When she discovered how she could subvert her boredom by overlaying the deafening thumps and crashes of the belts and steamers with the internal beat and rhythm of those lines, she wanted more. She went home at night to her abandoned books and found daffodils and tigers and soldiers with their legs shot off. She memorized them and brought them to work, inside her head, her personal poet-ghosts in the machines. They rescued her.