Altar to the Iron Sky

The birdsong above tells me I’ve walked this road before
Shadows lay across it in bands of night and day
Passing over me, each step a new twilight
But nothing is familiar in the trees ahead
No spirit of memory haunts the way forward
Save the faint glow of a past that clings to all
Every road I walk leads to the ocean
And I hear waves on the far side of this forest
There stands an altar to the iron sky
Waiting for the only offering I’ve left to give
As sunset touches the horizon
And the ocean heaves ashore
I come to the world’s end and offer up my sacrifice

When I was in 11th grade, we read The Grapes of Wrath for a college English class. It was my second time reading Steinbeck—I’d read Of Mice and Men the year before for another class. Of Mice and Men was sad, but for whatever reason it didn’t much affect me after I was done reading. The Grapes of Wrath, on the other hand, had one of the most profound effects on my mind of any book I’ve ever read. It was a sadness that lingered, and was only avoidable when I consciously pushed away thoughts of the book. I guess I connected to the characters in some too-deep way. Maybe because I knew that there had been real people to whom the events of the story had happened. Still, I would argue that it is one of the greatest books ever written.

Now I’m reading my third Steinbeck book: East of Eden. I’ve been picking away at it for a few months now, and honestly haven’t really delved deep for fear of repeating the whole GOW experience. It’s undeniably beautiful, and so far I’ve kept myself from connecting as deeply to the characters—reading as an impartial spectator rather than a compatriot of sorts. Anyway, I’m not really going anywhere with this. Has anyone else read a book that affected you like The Grapes of Wrath did me? Good or bad.

  Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

5 responses to “Altar to the Iron Sky”

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