Thursday, 09 May 2024 07:38

Working Till We Drop

Written by
in Poetry
Working Till We Drop

Working Till We Drop

by Fred Voss, with image from Les McConnell

I am pouring water from a faucet into a bucket
to mix it with the coolant in the bucket and pour the water and coolant into my machine
when Clarence
who works with hand-grinders in the deburring department looks over from his workbench
and says, “Hey Fred, you know I read in the paper that a person should have a million dollars
saved up before they retire….
I have a little money in my 401k but not anywhere near that….
and social security….you can’t live on that….
guess I can’t retire yet Fred….”
and I think of all the times I’ve heard men in factories say
“I’ll have to work till I drop”
and then try to laugh about it
and Clarence tries to laugh but it sticks in his throat and he says,
“My sister worked as an accountant and she made good money and saved all her life
and she’s doing fine retired but you know….they tell you when you’re young to save for retirement….
but I didn’t….and I tell my son to save for his retirement
but he isn’t….”
and I shut off the water because my bucket is full
what are we supposed to do
eat nothing but lentil soup
all our life
watch our teeth fall out of our mouth ride to work
crowded together with strangers on a bus pretend sitting in a lounge chair in our backyard
is travelling to an exotic vacation spot
while the 401k experts from financial companies scold us about not saving enough
as they casually scoff at the idea of our thinking we can live on social security
and make jokes about the scarcity of rich uncles and smile in their shiny new suits
while we squirm in our ragged torn T-shirts barely making enough money to get by
“Yeah, well, I guess I won’t be retiring anytime soon either….” I say
and carry the bucket full of water back to my machine
and open a drawer to my toolbox and pull out my big blue union button
from the days long ago before they shut down the big aerospace company I worked at
with 54,000 other people
and hold the button in the palm of my hand
like it is pure gold
I’ve read in the paper how unions are beginning to stand tall again
as men and women across the land walk picket lines
and win
and I look at the image on the button of workers standing together in a ring circling the globe
locking hands
to hold each other up
so we will never have to work
till we drop.

Read 208 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 May 2024 07:53
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 BonesHis latest book is Someday There Will Be Machine Shops Full of Roses and is available from Smokestack Books.