DONATA SZPATOWICZ loves a good joke. She’ll love to pull your leg. So, motioning over her shoulder, she seems to hint that Spicebush Lane, behind her, might be that street-paved-with-gold that drew her parents here from Poland.
But as she goes on, the twinkle in her eye gives her away, and you realize she’s not speaking of some imagined prosperity along the main thoroughfare of Lindera. There is no land of milk and honey to be found in this grimy little mill town.
She is, in fact, looking beyond Spicebush, past the last row of company houses and across Railroad Lane. Not to any street, but to the railroad tracks. And ones glazed not with gold but with the red of iron ore.
Iron–and the steel forged from it–are the gold here in Lindera. But millworkers like her father and her husband Janek will never claim a grain of it. No, only breathe in its dust.
She spreads her arms wide and, with sarcasm in her voice, sings out, Oh, yes. Amerrr-ikuh. The bee-utifol. But the only purple mountains she knows are the peaked mounds of slag lined up beside the train tracks. And her plain is only fruited with the towering smokestacks of the steel mill.