Tuesday, 04 June 2024 07:10

Running a Machine is the Easy Part

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in Poetry
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Running a Machine is the Easy Part

Fred Voss, the worker-poet from Long Beach, California, has sent us the poem below, with the following message:

Here's a poem I wrote this morning, I hope you like it. Things getting crazy here in USA with Trump a 34-count felon cheered on by the Republican party, as if he wasn't obviously a wannabe dictator. Totally irrational voters cheering on a madman intent on taking away their freedom and giving anyone who doesn't kiss his ass the shaft. But if the rich weren't screwing the poor so badly I don't think this would be happening. Anyway, I hope you are well and that Labor Party wins the next election and England keeps its senses while we try to right the Ship of State over here.

Running a Machine is the Easy Part

by Fred Voss, with Workers image above by Peter Kennard

I finish locking a block of steel into a vise
and look over to see the machinist at the next machine
has put some razor-sharp cutters in the top row of the cutter-holding rack
so that the cutters stick up where I might slice open my arm on the cutters
and I angrily slam the cutters back into the lower row of the cutter-holding rack
where I like to keep them so the cutters won’t slice open my arm
and the machinist walks over to slam them back into the top row
all my life
in machine shops there has been violence
screams
in faces knives under noses cold-cock punches
thrown out of shadows rumours
of guns in car glove compartments and once
even a life-like model of a hand grenade placed atop
my toolbox
by a Korean war veteran who knew how to make bombs
“I see you’re still an asshole!” I scream
at the machinist from the next machine and he says,
“People don’t talk like that to me,” and glowers and says,
“You’ve crossed a line with me.”
My heart pounds
and I begin to tremble with fury and I walk across the shop
into the Human Resources office and tell what’s happened
to the Human Resources lady and she calls the supervisor into the office
and the Human Resources lady and the supervisor listen to me tell what just happened
Human Resources asked us machine operators working on the shop floor to come to them
if we experience any friction out on the shop floor that could lead to dangerous violence
and I wait to hear what the Human Resources lady and the supervisor will do
black belts bikers PTSD Vietnam veterans ex-soldiers with lethal weapon hands survivors
of race riots or San Quentin cells men who wait for spacemen to contact them through chips
they think the spacemen have planted in their brains
out on a shop floor that feels like it’s a million miles
from where we sit in plush swivel office chairs and look across a big shiny conference table
at each other and talk rationally
and the Human Resources lady and the supervisor thank me for coming to them
and warning them and I walk back out onto the shop floor
where machines rattle and pound through 10-hour or 12-hour shifts
and men earn barely enough to live in tiny slum apartments
remembering how their fathers used to own big houses
with 2-car garages
and I take a cutter from the top row of the cutter rack
and lock it into my machine’s head
and begin to carve a 4130 block of steel
and wait for my heart to stop pounding and my hands to stop trembling
and try to figure how best to keep my arms away
from razor-sharp cutters in the top row of tool racks
out in this other world
where no one sits in a plush
swivel chair.

Read 277 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 June 2024 07:32
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.