Thursday, 08 February 2024 15:52

A Machinery Handbook Will Never Solve This Problem

Written by
in Poetry
A Machinery Handbook Will Never Solve This Problem

A Machinery Handbook Will Never Solve This Problem

by Fred Voss

A machinist is hired and rolls his rollaway toolbox
down the machine shop aisle and parks it beside a workbench and steps up
to a machine
10 or 20 feet away from another machinist
at another machine
at first
the machinists enjoy comparing each other’s tools and work histories and talking
about each other’s jobs at steel heat-treating foundries where they saw thermometers reach
700 degrees
or worked on parts for space shuttles
or made lenses so surgeons could do angiograms
as they compare how level each other’s milling machine table is
and talk about thousandth-of-an-inch tolerances on blueprints
mutually admiring
each other’s expertise with indicators and inside micrometers and lapping compound
but it’s not long
before they find out one is an ardent supporter of Trump
while the other
thinks he should be put in prison for life
one burned his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War
while the other was a Vietnam War Marine veteran who fell in love with the smell
of napalm
it’s like some arranged royal marriage between different countries
where the bride and groom
have no choice
and nothing in common
both machinists needing the job and loving their machine
and the steel and brass and aluminum they cut
so expertly
both with a 1,500-page Machinery Handbook atop their toolbox
but one a fundamentalist Christian who believes Man’s sins will cause the world to end
in 12 years
while the other hopes he can make enough money as a machinist to someday run a whorehouse
in El Salvador
one with a beloved brother who’s a homosexual cop in San Francisco
the other a homophobe who steals company tools whenever he can
one who believes he was hypnotized and taken aboard a flying saucer and given a physical exam
by a beautiful female alien doctor
the other adamant that people who believe in UFOs
should be put in mental hospitals
maybe if the machinists are lucky they will find they both love
The Doors
or rock collecting or doing yoga in the park every Sunday morning
maybe they can admire each other’s photos
of their cute grandchildren
but it will never be enough
to stop them cursing
the way job ads can bring strangers together
for life.

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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.

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