Sunday, 26 May 2019 19:43

Joe Hill Walks This Factory Floor

Written by
in Poetry
Joe Hill Walks This Factory Floor

Joe Hill Walks This Factory Floor

by Fred Voss

I remember working a union shop decades ago
the way we stood
a little taller
walked by a supervisor with our chin and chest stuck out
a little further
we owned the concrete floor
grabbed the handles to our machines because we wanted to
not because we had to
we were one
set of thumbs one grip of fist one heave of steel block
into vise bolted to machine table
one rivulet of sweat
trickling down the hollow of a steel cutter’s back on a hot summer day
Joe Hill
the union leader still alive 104 years after they buried him
full of bullets
Pete Seeger
still playing his banjo at 92 years of age marching on braces over the Brooklyn Bridge
with all those New York Occupiers so young and full of dreams
beside him
and I look across this machine shop at Chris 75 years old still wrestling
a 100-pound vise on and off a machine table
working into old age because he doesn’t make enough to save a dime
hunched over his oily turret lathe not knowing where he’ll get the money to pay
for his heart operation
Ismael lifting a 400-pound die onto his machine with a crane and living in his car
Hugo the 20-years-skilled arc welder
unable to buy a house for his family though he can lay down a weld bead beautiful
as a Van Gogh sunflower
somewhere deep in their hearts and their sinews and the blood surging through their veins they know
they are brothers
the thing that sets the sun to rise
the mother
to hold the child to her breast and smile
the eagle to spread its wings and soar like it is holding up
the sky
together strong
as the waves crushing stone
into sand the stars
guiding all the ships home
through the storm
waiting for the unions
to rise again.


Read 1071 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 May 2019 19:53
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 Bones.