Sunday, 30 April 2023 15:31

May Day poem: Looking For My Brother

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in Poetry
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May Day poem: Looking For My Brother

Looking For My Brother

by Fred Voss

When I stepped into the steel mill the first time it felt good
to hold
onto the handles of the cutting torch machine
the steel sparker
I squeezed between my thumb and fingers to make the spark
to light the torch
the knobs on the red tank of gas and the green tank of oxygen
I turned to mix the gas and oxygen until the torch flame roared
like an orange dragon
dropped out of English literature PhD school disowned by my mother
the summer of love Age of Aquarius Woodstock days
over for good Morrison Hendrix Joplin cold
in their graves
the only woman I’d ever had 7 years gone
I threw my arms around a 1-ton 20-foot-long bar of steel and hugged it
like Ishmael
holding onto Queequeg’s coffin
held onto a timecard and dropped it into a timeclock and tried
to make a new life
instead of strolling across the spacious rolling green university lawns
I walked on grease-blackened floor heaving beneath me like a concrete sea
about to swallow me
the pounding of the 2-ton drop hammers the beating heart
of a beast made of welding rods and drill presses and beeping forklifts and red-hot sparks
I hung on
to those cutting torch machine handles
and the sizzling of the steel bars melted by my flame
and instead of professors
there were men in knee-high rubber boots walking across machine beds flooded
with green coolant and 30-year steel mill veterans with eyes fierce
as tigers and fingers gnarled
as heavyweight boxers
I held on
to my new life
strange to me as Montezuma’s headdress
to Cortez
or Armstrong’s first step
across the cratered moon
there was no going back
to Shakespeare and chalkboards and white shirts
and I grabbed those cutting torch machine handles and hung on
and gazed across the steel mill floor into a punch press operator’s eyes
looking for the brother
I’d never had.

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Fred Voss

Fred Voss, a machinist for 35 years, has had three collections of poetry published by Bloodaxe Books, and two by Culture Matters: The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand, and Robots Have No Bones.