The Maynard
Spring 2016

Kathleen M. Heideman

Certain Things You Should Know About Rusty

Rusty hasn’t come home. His truck’s behind the Crow Bar
but nobody’s heard from him for a week.
He’s probably just gone down, Rusty’s ma says, gesturing vaguely.
Where—down in the basement?
I’m tired of these games Rusty plays.
Down south? Down ‘the bottom of Lake Superior? Down to Hades?
Don’t be smart, she says, looking sideways. She runs her iron
up and down her blouse, until I can smell the hot cotton.
Then softer: the Old Location.
I’m the outsider. To be an insider,
you need to know the difference between “new location”
and “old location.” Your family’s
bones need to have been buried, east of town, dug up, and reburied a second time down by the Carp River.

She hands me a tattered flier. Read, she says.
It looks like a truck tire ran over it, gravel-embossed,
something saved from Pioneer Days, when she staffed
the Chamber of Commerce Information Desk and wore her name
on a plastic tag pinned above her heart—Laurentia Maki—Just Ask Me!
It’s a well known fact that Laurie dislikes tourists.
They ask such dumb questions, really, and their cameras click-click-
click over every mundane thing—little bites out of the world, she says,
oohing and aaahing at every roadside apple, but they take two bites
and spit you out, soon as they spot the wormhole. Laurie
looks me up and down, not one bit motherly.

Certain things you should know about Rusty, she warns.

On this spot on Sept 19, 1844, William A. Burt was the first to discover the great Lake Superior iron ore deposits. Peculiar fluctuations in his magnetic compass led Burt to ask his men to seek the cause; they soon returned with pieces of iron ore from outcroppings in the area… Maji-gesik, a Chippewa chief guided members of the party in the summer to this region and showed them the iron ore in the roots of a fallen pine tree. By 1846, there were 106 mining companies.1

Mrs. Maki’s sacred local history text! Amen, I laugh
under my breath. Then I see, scrawled on the other side,
the note Rusty left for me.


Believable? This Russell “hell-everybody-calls-me-Rusty”
—these words really come from his lips?
His actions plausible? You love him?
Consider his education level, his motivations, societal norms,
the breathable atmosphere of an old mining town smothering his hope,
withering in his chest like a neglected houseplant,
last summer’s geraniums in an upstairs window,
just enough December light for a few spindly leaves, a bloom.
That’s Rusty for you. Can’t kill him—he flowers,
can’t keep him from stealing any scene
he enters: life of the party tonight, Rusty!
—though he’s just as likely to scowl for days,
slam doors, fill his old army pack with dried venison,
flour, canned goods, brandy in a plastic water jug,
and drive, come dawn, down a two-track.

Sometimes he abandons his truck behind a bar, at a gate,
sometimes he leaves it buried to the fender in mud,
hikes the rest of the way in to some collapsing shack in a swamp
or the rim of an old shaft where he may or may not break in,
fall asleep to the whine of mosquitos,
though he’s a good shot, repairs the window-screen
with needle and thread, smiles to see the sliver of a moon.
How easily he forgets work, time, you,
swears off all humans for a month at a clip.
Not like he’s in the arms of another woman, so it’s possible.
But a month? O Rusty, that’s pushing it a bit, I think.


Looking up at the Miners’ Bank building
as a thin slice of yellow moon
“swam out from behind a jagged dark cliff”
by which we meant the clouds passed an outcrop
revealing the moon. Some time back, Maji-gesik
agreed to guide strangers to a place near Negaunee
where stones were banded red and silver,
where iron like stars shone from upturned roots.

He didn’t approach the tree himself, he pointed with his chin,
didn’t point at it with a finger,
he walked backward as they neared it.

Thanks! said Ohio, salivating over the scene.
Hey, I’m just showing you, I’m not
giving it away or anything, said Maji-gesik,
but it was too late.
Have you seen kids go wild, unwrapping presents?
Drills and sledges wedged their foot in the door,
ribboned open every crack, pits and drifts and shafts
pushed down, declared the whole Range
Open for Business!


Larger than myself, Desire, this fragrant orange,
this great Magnet calling iron filings to itself,
O! Rusty, bite into me, drill me, tug me closer—


Who’s been down there lately? Who’s down there now? Rusty, that you?

Who’s on first, who’s on second? Who’s unaccounted for?
Cap’n Merry says a man’s brass check is missing from the board.

Who’s on second? You tell me who’s on second, damnit, I’m done, I’m wrung!

Who’s to say the ore’s exhausted? They’ll be back. He’ll come home, Rusty.
Who lost their dance partner? Where could that man be hiding?

Has the age of hermits passed? Who said so? Who’s on first, toeing dust?
Who says there ain’t maybe a wild one down the shaft, praying his prayers?

You do the math. Who’s got the heavier burden:
him with a ton of feathers, her with a ton of iron?

Who’s to know what follows next or soon, a mining bust or mineral boom
or whether like ore cars, we’ll move unoiled against each other

coupling & uncoupling.
Who’s down there? she called, frightened, her mind’s cellar

propped with timbers, the uneven floor dead-ending at a wall of bedrock,
Laurentian Shield,—things crawling, the wall dripping music

when it rains, a fine reminder this land’s a manuscript of orogeny,
paleographic disputes, tumult older-than-the-hills, our narrative folded

accordion-style, the seams are leather, cracking, orebody exposed
and exploited, the lines / enjambed

Nobody, a voice said. It sounded just like Rusty.
Nobody’s been down here for forever.

1. Burt Boyum, Chief Geologist, A Paper on The Marquette Mineral District Michigan, presented to the Lake Superior Geology National Science Foundation Summer Conference (Ishpeming, MI: Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, 1964).