Baltimore Was Always Blue

by Michael Salcman

Goodbye America of the blue overalls and steel-toed boots,
goodbye, goodbye. The headline in The Sun said it all today
in type as tall as the re-election of a president:
General Motors Closes Its Broening Highway Plant.
Don’t you remember when they said what was good for GM
was good for America? In the Forties they called men like Bob
at the gym “expediters”—they sorted parts for fifty cents
an hour, everything in its proper place at the right time.
Goodbye to you and the smell of cayenne and cinnamon
drifting over the Inner Harbor when it had rotting piers
and McCormick Spice. Goodbye, goodbye General Mills,
Bendix and Western Electric, farewell to the steel plate
and memories of Liberty ships, their hulls bent true and shaped
at Sparrows Point by thirty thousand hands. Goodbye
to London Fog, its raincoats and umbrellas, “Born in Baltimore,
Raised Everywhere”, and sterling silver candlesticks
turned on lathes in Hamden. Goodbye steel beams,
locomotives and trains, automobiles and ships,
military bombers, telephones, stoves and Natty Bo Beer.
Over half a century, a city dies a thousand cuts: condos rise
where breweries stood, the Ritz-Carlton goes up at Beth Steel,
and office towers are put where Proctor and Gamble made soap
on the harbor. Near Seagirt Marine, 7000 men (and women too)
made metal vans, things on wheels we import from Japan.
For seventy years, while New York and Chicago wore tweed
topcoats and gray fedoras, Baltimore was dressed in blue.
Now it’s goodbye to factory whistles, tin hats, lunch pails
filled with ham and mayonnaise. No welders eat Italian
on Holabird Avenue, no salesmen sleep
at the Brentwood and Carson Inns, no one raises a shot to a crab
at the Poncabird Pub. It’s goodbye to all that.

River Styx: no.72, 2006; and The Enemy of Good is Better (Orchises Press, 2011)

Michael Salcman's picture

Michael Salcman (born 1946) is an American poet and physician who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. His poetical work is infused and vivified by his medical profession, his love of and expertise in contemporary art, and by the fact that his parents were Holocaust survivors. His work is characterized by a lushness of diction, a strong moral focus, and a sense of playful imagery.

Last updated April 16, 2015