Fred Voss

Fred Voss

Fred Voss, a machinist for 32 years, has had three collections of poetry published by the UK’s Bloodaxe Books. His latest booklet is The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand, published by Culture Matters.

The Waterfall and the Song and the Hammer in the Hand
Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:43

The Waterfall and the Song and the Hammer in the Hand

Published in Poetry

The Waterfall and the Song and the Hammer in the Hand

by Fred Voss

Too many of the white machinists in this shop like Trump
they are good men
with a tool steel square or a finely calibrated micrometer gripped
in their hands
or a newly-born granddaughter held
against their heartbeats
but they have been fooled by a con artist
in the white house
and I look over at the Indian milling machine operators from Guatemala
and El Salvador
some of them rode the tops of boxcars into this country
others
send money home to mothers living next to sacred rivers
I give them this country
they do not engrave their names across their molybdenum-steel wrenches
and hide them away in toolboxes locked
with chain and padlock like the white machinists
they leave them spread across workbenches for other machinists
to use
and tape pictures of beautiful waterfalls
to their toolboxes
and I look over at the Mexican tool grinders from East L.A. singing mariachi
they would rather fill the air with beautiful melody
than wave a red white and blue flag
I give them the future
the Gabrielino Indian turret lathe operator whose ancestors lived in this L.A. basin
a thousand years ago
standing straight with a truth in his heart Trump can never touch
I put my hope
in him
and any man who needs a job
a home
a dream
I put my hope in the waterfall
and the song
and the hammer in the hand
we white men took this country
with our guns and our trains and our law books
but it was never really ours
its waterfalls
its waves its condors
its skies its grass blades and sunsets
and seas its beauty
like a wide-open workbench covered with tool steel wrenches free for all
to use.

This poem was partly inspired by by the current horrific immigrant situation surrounding the Mexico/U.S. border.

More important than Elvis's comb
Saturday, 14 April 2018 18:08

More important than Elvis's comb

Published in Poetry

Fred Voss sent in the following poem after reading the new collection by Martin Hayes, The Things Our Hands Once Stood For, published by Culture Matters and available here.

More important than Elvis's comb

by Fred Voss

What is more important
than a cheap blue linoleum kitchen table in a little apartment
a spoon a bowl of hot clam chowder on that table a chair
with a back so a young man can sit
and eat the chowder
as he puts all the courage he has into trying to be a man who works
at a blast furnace
what is more important than the stink of the steel as he heats it red-hot
in roaring white-hot blast furnace flame
his going on
like the earth turning the whale singing the sun shining
each knuckle
in the young man’s hands each drop of sweat
that slithers
down his back
each breath he takes each hope he hangs onto each black shoelace
of each boot around his feet as he sparks on a cutting torch at 1 am
while everyone else sleeps
he is the one
who built the roads nailed the roofs carried the buckets of cement
drove the red-hot rivets into bridges steered buses through crowded cities walked
the naked steel skyscraper I-beams 1,000 feet above the street dove
beneath the waves stroking to save the drowning man broke
through the smoking door to rush into the burning building and save
the babe
are the stars more important the heroes
of sagas the statues of Lincoln the comb
of Elvis the Nikes
of Michael Jordan the eyelashes of Madonna the cross of Christ the bank vault
of a billionaire the sonatas
of Beethoven more important
than the time card
the young man drops into the time clock KA-CHUNK
as the eye
of the old man on the surface grinder twinkles winking
at the young man saying, “Yes, you can do it”
and the young man steps up
to a red-hot bar of steel and sparks on his cutting torch
to carve out a tooth for the bucket of a bulldozer
that will move
mountains.

 

National Poetry Day: None of us are really machines
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 08:28

National Poetry Day: None of us are really machines

Published in Poetry

None of us are really machines

by Fred Voss

Every once in a while a man
falls apart next to a machine with perfect thousandth-of-an-inch calibration marks
all over its dials
trains roll on time
time clocks never miss a tick
Jupiter never stops revolving or orbiting the sun
but a man
who has come through a tin door with a lunch pail in his fist for 20 or 30 years
and stood tall and firm as a redwood tree beside his machine turning out perfect
door hinges or engine rings like clockwork
can suddenly
start shaking
and collapse onto a steel stool and cry and not be able to turn out
one more part
as his micrometers calibrated to one-ten-thousandth-of-an-inch accuracy sit
on the workbench waiting for him
to pick them up
like he has 10 million times before
there are men between these factory tin walls where we work away our lives we hardly
know at all
until suddenly
they fire their fist into a foreman’s face
or start screaming at the top of their lungs and can’t
stop
as the tooling cabinets sit full of check pins ground to one-ten-thousandth-of-an-inch-perfect
diameter
and the timeclock ticks its millionth perfect tiny tick
and pendulums all over the earth swing according to Galileo’s formula for gravity
and the machines roar and rattle and chew steel
there is a man out on the shop floor who can’t go on
one more minute
and maybe a few weeks off to sit in a lounge chair on a beach and watch the waves roll in
or play and sing silly songs with his 2-year-old granddaughter
will fix this man
or maybe we will never see him again
but every so often there is a man on this hard concrete shop floor who must remind us
none of us are really
machines.

The Heels of Can-Can Dancers Kicking Towards the Stars
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 10:31

The Heels of Can-Can Dancers Kicking Towards the Stars

Published in Poetry

The Heels of Can-Can Dancers Kicking Towards the Stars

by Fred Voss

A poem is a reason to get up in the morning
the crowns
of 100 Sequoia redwood trees soaking in the sun
together a cup
of ice water in the middle of the Sahara desert a poem
bounces across a midnight alley like the eyes
of the black cat travels
around the globe like the song of the whale at the bottom
of the sea
no king
will ever rule as completely as the laws of gravity true
as poems a poem
is the kiss of a beautiful woman on the lips of a man who has just finished doing 20 years
in San Quentin the hooting
of the owl during a total eclipse
of the sun a poem
runs down an Olympic track like Jesse Owens’s black feet proving Hitler’s white master race
a lie breaks
open the Bastille because no human being can ever be kept down
forever takes
off his hat to no man as he strides like Walt Whitman
down his open road
a poem
is the heels of can-can dancers kicking
toward the stars Hamlet
saying words that will last longer
than all the empires a poem
is a strawberry ice cream cone licked
under fireworks
a man
on a bridge over a river pressing a trumpet to his lips playing notes so beautiful he will never
          jump
into the water below a poem
hits harder than any hammer a poem is a girder
in a skyscraper the spine of a saber-toothed tiger the horn
of a midnight train crossing a bridge over the Mississippi River
as Huck Finn paddles escaped slave Jim down its deep waters
toward freedom old
as a poem.

The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand
Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:52

The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand

Published in Our Publications

Poems by Fred Voss

£5.99 (plus £1.50 p&p) 48 pp ISBN 978 1907 464102

 

I want to change the world, I want to strike the spark or kick the pebble that will start the fire or the avalanche that will change the world a little.

- Fred Voss

Everyone can see the growing inequality, the precarious and low paid nature of employment, the housing crisis in our cities, the divisions and inequalities between social classes, the problems of obesity, drink and drugs, and the sheer everyday struggle to pay the bills for many working people. In this situation, Fred Voss is like a prophet. He is warning us of the consequences of the way we live, he is telling truth to power, and he is inspiring us with a positive vision of a possible – and desirable – socialist future.

- Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

 

Sure
Monday, 14 November 2016 08:43

Sure

Published in Poetry

Sure

by Fred Voss


It is the morning after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and I
am at my machine and I grip my machine’s handle
with my palm
the steel handle is still solid and hard
against my soft flesh
a racist hate-filled egomaniac dictatorial sexual predator swindler infant elected to lead
310 million people
and I turn the handle to my machine and my machine table moves exactly 100 thousandths
of an inch
I want to believe that a thousandth of an inch is still a thousandth of an inch
rivers flow downhill
a dinosaur bone
is 65 million years old he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword but Donald Trump
will soon have his finger on the nuclear trigger and Nero fiddled
while Rome burned and I put on my leather gloves and grab
a 50-pound block of 4130 steel and drop it
into my vise bolted to my milling machine table and send the carbide teeth of a shell mill
plowing through the raw steel
I want to believe when ice melts it still turns into water
Lady Macbeth
still can’t wash those drops of blood off her hand
I want to believe Christ and Buddha
knew something
Beethoven’s
Moonlight Sonata is still beautiful roses
still open train wheels
still can’t roll without the hands of men like me
who make them
I plant my feet on this concrete machine shop floor
surely the mockingbird has not forgotten how to sing
surely a human being still knows
right from wrong surely
the sun still rises steel is still hard and men like Trump fall
in the end
sure as my hammerhead ringing out when I strike it
against steel
sure as Victor Hugo’s statue
Nelson Mandela’s heart
the cat sitting in the sun on your windowsill
the sweat on the back of every workingman on earth
and the stars still there shining
in the sky.

Fred Voss's latest collection, The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand, is published by Culture Matters and is available from http://manifestopress.org.uk/