Skyline Work Song: A poem by Andrew Solarz

The Solomon Scandals, although fiction, was inspired in part by the Skyline Plaza collapse, which killed 14 workers and injured 34. Enraged by the shortcuts taken in the construction, a civil servant named Andrew Solarz wrote the poem below.  At the time Andy lived several miles from Skyline in Falls Church, Virginia, and he is now retired in Annapolis, Maryland. We’re reproducing “Skyline Work Song” with his permission. (Sad update: Andy died on October 5, 2011—a detailed obituary is here.)

Fourteen tombstones underlie
The twisted steel shell.
Fourteen souls decry
This monument to hell.

Build it high, build it fast;
Rush the job, forget the past.

The sky is lined with concrete slabs
Hiding the fallen stones of red
Covered are the careless maps,
Silenced the mournful tones of dead.

Build it high, build it fast;
Rush the job, forget the past

Again the stony remains rise up;
Public pages print the rage.
Not of precious lives lost—but
Of avarice uncaged.

Build it high, build it fast;
Rush the job, forget the past, reach the sky

The market has no solace
For parents, children, sweethearts, brothers.
No tears, no memory—by careless
Powers grasping for another—yet another

Fourteen souls wander within the shell
Asking why they had to die
Why the horrible building fell
Why no one heeds their muted cry.

“Don’t forsake the sky,
Don’t build it fast,
Don’t build it high,
Don’t forget the past.”

“Don’t replace the beauty of the sky
With blueprints, mortgages, and banks;
Don’t rush to spill, then hide
The blood of the working ranks.”

The day the massive structure spoke,
The night was filled with howls.
Frantic families begged to a hope
From the mausoleum’s  jowls.

Rush the job, forget the past;
Damn the sky—build it high!

Oh! Builder, stop lining the sky
With certificates of death
Builder, take care to test thy soul
Against the gods who will be met.

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