The Tamping Iron Speaks

Zoë Hitzig

The powder exploded, carrying an iron instrument through his head an inch and a fourth in circumference, and three feet and eight inches in length.

Boston Post, 21 September 1848

Here is business enough for you.
Business is a practice, it is.
Of railroad tracks and the train.
Of boxcar slats. Of that which
is always approaching –

can you see my explosion?
Can you see my ungentle
approach? From the blacksmith’s
smithy I pack and tamp to blast
black powder into the blast hole

and become myself. Unlike a person.
I know what a person is. I was once
damp with one. See my glia stain,
my inscription. For a short moment
I had an eye on this flat face. I could

believe. Now I am flat. Am a face.
Cannot break this glass case, cannot

set blast—— light fuse——
will angle—— at which I enter
bedrock.