Timothy Dyson, 2/18/2013
Former occupation: Thirty years in Human Resources.
Current occupation: Fisherman poet
Contact Information: Spent two years in the MA Writing Program, Univ of Pittsburgh, left when GI Bill money ran out and went to work. Took a thirty three year break from writing poetry. I saw a poem by Elizabeth Bishop online one day and decided to pick it up again.
After dropping out of North Catholic
when his dad died of asbestos poisoning
from thirty years in the Navy Yard,
Margie had gotten pregnant
and he took a job on third shift at Budd Co.
hauling rail car parts from stock to assembly.
He bought a small row house just off Tulip Street
and worried about the gases coming from Rohm and Haas
just one block over near St Aloysius.
After twenty years of smashed knuckles,
missing parts and careless
forklift drivers, he became a senior tie guy
with sixty men working for him.
He trained his men on ten ton cranes
and hydraulic jacks and how to back
a completed rail car onto a flatbed for shipment.
Careful, careful, take your time,
and when someone yelled, Healey, telephone
he dashed, ran too fast
into the third shift of history, you know the one,
where you find out there is no reward
for working hard except to hear your men
say maybe you weren’t such an ass after all.
There is nothing noble
about driving staples
into white pine divots.
There is urgency
and rhythm and pressure
to make rate
to get your numbers up.
They are not called Box Springs
just boxes, twin, queen
CalKing inset sets
of twenty or ten
depending on the speed
of the framers.
Four hundred pieces
five days per week
one hundred thousand
at end of year.
Two weeks before Christmas
there was a fight:
one Guatemalan and one
Puerto Rican, women going
first for eyes, then the hair
bloodied over a man—
‘you bitches better stop it
or we ain’t gettin’ our bonus’—
I once spent two hours video-taping mattress builders
Studying the numbing intricacies of edges
Timing the staples, monitoring the clicks
In the new seam machine
I knew assigned rates, the number of required pieces
Knew the basic maneuvers one might need
In order to succeed, just enough for thirteen dollars
And the seventy two cents piece rate bonus
This was a young man’s work
Young central Americans or southeast Asians
Spics and gooks come over to steal
The jobs no one else wanted
It was the cool-minded efficiency that pissed off
The natives, the lived close to the plant crowd
Neither culture or class or kiss my ass
Slowed the flesh engine
One year a minor scuffle broke out
When a Mexican matt builder
Asked one of the Pa Dutch never seen much
Seam sewers to slow dance at the VFW
Bad enough they’re stealing our jobs
Now they wanted the women
But Dan Stoltzfus stepped in
To settle things in the spirit of Christmas
He knew the locals would never understand
It’s about the rate not about the man