The Welder’s Story

By Rob Carney

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Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series

There’s this moment as you head north on I-5 to Seattle where you round a bend and see the Smith Tower (old-style, and not what you’d think of as a high-rise) and the Columbia Tower, too, looming over it (black glass, and absolutely a skyscraper). You also see Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. It’s an iconic blend of the built and the natural, at least to me.

The Smith Tower was Seattle’s tallest building once, the tallest, in fact, west of the Mississippi. So when a taller building went up in some city somewhere, Seattle added a kind of spire to the top in order to regain the lead—sort of like an architectural flip-off raised with style.

Anyway, seeing the two buildings—Smith and Columbia—together, seeing that early- and late-20th-century contrast, is pretty cool. And none of it would be possible without welders. There’s a skeleton in each of those buildings. And the ones who made sure all those bones and girders stood up and kept on standing (despite wind, and rain, and the steepness of the hillside, and time, and earthquakes, and proximity to four wicked-ass volcanoes)—the ones who had the biggest hand in making that happen were the working-class laborers with their welding torches.

April is National Welding Month, so I thought now would be a good time to thank them for the skyline and share a poem:

The Welder’s Story

No surprise he likes the odd jobs best.
Like fixing the crack in the church bell.

He’d never been up in a belfry before,
or braided his work between pigeons,

and now each noon
he listens ’til the echoes end.

Or the windows in submarines;
those portholes need to seal tight.

And that stealth job, museum guy,
knight’s armor, total panic:

He’d snuck it out for Halloween, then fell,
and snapped off the nose-piece thing.

Now, repairs like that—both Medieval
and invisible—that’s art.

Also, if anyone needs it,
he’ll weld moonlight to the harbor…

a place to go when you’re fractured,
split by grief.

Row out, work quietly, blue sparks
past the end of the pier.

He can do it so the breaks seem hardly there at all.



Rob CarneyRob Carney’s first collection of creative nonfiction, Accidental Gardens, is out now from Stormbird Press, and his new book of poems, Call and Response, is available from Black Lawrence Press. Previous books include Facts and Figures, The Last Tiger is Somewhere, The Book of Sharksand 88 Maps.

Read an interview with Rob Carney appearing in “The Ocean is Full of Questions.”
Read Rob Carney’s Letter to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by and Trinity University Press.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to an interview on Montana Public Radio about The Book of Sharks.

Header photo by xvostenko, courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.