One blue hour simmers on the stove, steam rising
like a slow train up and over the mill line —
still-life burnt in coal, black heat, skin cold-split
in the third shift. The radiator hisses.

Flurries dance on the wind in spun madness. She
presses her hands to the hot pipes, looks out across
the Pittsburgh grey, soaking it in, spreading it like a blanket
across her memory — thick like miner’s dust, an iron door.

She wears gloves to bed, wakes to the itch of wool,
startled by how her fingers feel like someone else’s,
how rough they’ve grown — like a man’s — inside
her winter skin. She pictures the man, bright within

her childhood dream-head like the light at the end
of a shaft. He is twice her size and she can’t see
around him. Warm bourbon breath that melts the snow
before it lands. The game will be played in the big wooden house,

the kitchen floor freshly mopped though no one lives there.
She will like the game because he made it up just for her.
She puts her hands in his flannel pockets and follows.
The sky is wide, the day endless. Somewhere a kettle whistles.

The man’s fingers are dry and hot as he teaches her
how to play. When he kisses her, she kisses back.
It is freezing without her gloves and underwear, but his hands
are a furnace and that is enough. He doesn’t ask her

not to tell. Instead, he points to the smokestacks
across the river still burning, says how the blue fire
from the molten ore can singe your skin off, leave you
cold like steel. Tells her she’ll never feel anything like it.

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LESLIE ANNE MCILROY won the 2000 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space. She also won the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for her chapbook Gravel and first place in the 1997 Chicago Literary Awards judged by Gerald Stern. Leslie's poems are published or forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies including American Poetry: The Next Generation, Connotation Press, Dogwood, The Emily Dickinson Award Anthology, Grist, Jubilat, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose & Poetry, PANK, Pearl Magazine, The New Chiron Review, and The Mississippi Review. Leslie serves as Managing & Poetry Editor of HEArt — Human Equity through Art — Online. She is a copywriter in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her daughter Silas and partner Don. Her second full-length book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Tech in July 2008 and her third, SLAG, by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in December, 2014 as runner-up for their 2014 Poetry Prize. In addition to her full-rime work selling food for a major regional grocer (Giant Eagle/Market District), serving as cofounder and managing editor of HEArt, and her own poetry endeavors, Leslie spends a good deal of time writing and/or emailing on her deck, which is laden with flowers from May to September. A vegetarian, she also attempts each year to plant a garden, which inevitably fails, short of basil and an ever-widening patch of perennial oregano and imperialistic mint. She makes pesto out of anything—lemon balm, parsley, cilantro, oregano and yes, basil — and serves it at almost every gathering in some form or another. Be warned. She wishes pine nuts weren’t so expensive. Leslie can be caught singing way too loud and off-key to Springsteen, The Killers and Tom Waits while cleaning house, which she hates, but she hates bad house cleaners even more. Leslie watches The West Wing on Netflix every chance she gets, though she despises network television, and she spends lots of evenings watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls or Friends with her daughter while eating sushi and popcorn. Leslie loves live bands, IPAs, and dive bars, and just recently got her first “smart” phone. Can’t you tell? Author site with links to poems, reviews, interviews, etc.: lamcilroy.org Buy SLAG here.

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