John Grey, 2/6/2017
Current Occupation: Retired
Previous Occupation: Financial Systems Analyst
Contact Information: Australian born poet, US resident since late seventies. Worked as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Coe Review, Abbey and Cemetery Moon with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Harbinger Asylum.
He punched time clocks.
For so many years, he got by on remorseless punctuality
Factories ran because of him.
He did the same thing over and over and so did they.
He was one more worker
glued to the assembly line,
eyes, wrists, arms, hands and legs
like unquestioning soldiers,
keeping those wheels and pulleys turning
or stoking hell-hot ovens,
or stacking the guts of backs of trucks
with fresh product.
He lost a finger in an accident,
half his hearing to the pulverizing noise.
And his lungs turned the same shade of brown
as the stream that trickled behind the walls
and bubbled with toxins.
Look at those red eyes, the bend of the back.
And listen to the cough,
the wheeze, the creak of the knees.
This man was a dead-set cog
in whatever machine you can imagine.
It could have been warehouse, foundry, depot or plant.
Or the steam bellies of boilers.
And the fuels of his decline –
take your pick from metals, fiberglass, noxious gases.
And chemicals that glowed in the gut.
But he paid his bills. He bought the house he's still living in.
He went to church on Sunday and he hacked up dark bile
like evicting demons.
Yes, he drank a lot of beer and he swore like two platoons.
And he may not have even been a good man.
But he was a functioning one, a persistent one, a practical one.
When he finally retired,
folks reckoned he'd be dead within the year.
But he's still here.
So folks reckon they must have got the year wrong.
But they got the death right at least.