Current occupation: Fisherman poet
Former occupation: Thirty years in Human Resources.
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.
DECEMBER 23RD SECOND SHIFT AT THE MATTRESS FACTORY
First, the odd Hungarian man
loaded the skid of springs
onto a vice. Applying pressure
via electric fists, then flipping
the switch. Sounds of steel
snapping to life, pushing
towards heaven. Stand back,
sometimes they get away
like dancing knives. Here we go,
what was two feet high, rises
Then, two Vietnamese guys rolled
up the huge ladder, pulling
down the scoured sheets onto
The rollers, manned by Frenchy
and Secrets Man,
began to purr, foam matt
attached by ring guns.
Then, beautiful Guatemalan women
took over. On with the backing,
gauzey thick, sub-matt wrap
was next before Mexican matt
builders started slinging.
One point six eight pieces per
hour, per person, move it.
Hey, where’s Danny
out sneakin a smoke with Maria
goddamnit, Murphy’s ready for bear.
There’s six hundred pieces
on the schedule tonight
and they’ve got to go, far
away from here.
Fran on the load dock
tipped Danny off, Murph just missed
firing that little sonofabitch.
Hey, I wanna thank you guys,
each and every one,
helluva job, have some pizza,
the night is young.
Seventy two hundred plastic fans will go down Line 3 today
Esmeredlda Marquez will insert a grounding screw and two blades
Libby Thomas will plug in every fourth one to ensure quality
Bill Tidwell will oversee the twenty eight employees on the belt
Two ten minute breaks, two pee breaks (in seniority order),
A half hour for lunch, for a smoke in the sweltering Houston sun.
The roach coaches will roll up with basic grub—taco, burrito, hot dogs
Various kinds of pre-made sandwiches, soda, high-price cigarettes
The floor walkers will enjoy lunch first, having no assigned position,
Always closer to exit, grabbing the best looking goodies, disliked
By those stuck on the stools, death by numbness will surely ensue.
Huge propeller fans line the back side of this former railcar factory
One hundred and eighty thousand square feet of steaming machinery,
Blow mold machines belching heat, CNC machines clanking precision
Scalding hot wash and dry area to sanitize the parts prior to assembly
Even the filthy eyewash stations will drip with inhuman sweat.
Margaret ‘Itty Bitty’ Bugner will make it through this day
She’ll stop off at Suds’n’Spuds for a shot of Canadian and a beer
She’ll pick up a bucket of chicken with cole slaw and mashed
She’ll do two loads of wash, check the granddaughter’s lessons
When her daughter stumbles in from her waitressing job,
Itty will have one last smoke, lock the trailer door
And drift off, dreaming about a man who will not beat her up
WEST CHESTER METAL PRODUCTS
There are families there
nameless on the numbered stools
wearing gloves without fingertips
arm guards soft as stucco
Some of the stools are customized
with cardboard or ragged cushion
duct-taped in position
ensuring the robotic discomfort
High above air hose brackets
and the flickering fluorescent lights
country music is piped in
to workers who speak no English
A bilingual Spanish floorwalker
stops by once a day
to see if anything is wrong
all the Croats grin
and hum a different song