All It Needs Is Some Grease
After working 32 years in machine shops I find myself wishing
were like worm screws
and only needed 9 or 10 squirts of clear lube grease out of a grease gun squirted on them
to work smoothly
in machine shops suddenly out of nowhere I have seen men throw
I have seen them suddenly start screaming and spit
on the man at the machine next to them
men could be like machines and be calibrated to repeat
their movements day after day and year after year to within one ten thousandth of an inch
if only we could call in our maintenance man and he could fix men
with taps of his hammer
turns of his wrench
from his red long-necked oil can
men didn’t go slowly mad because the man on the machine next to them
has been whistling “Georgy Girl” off-key into their ears for 10 years
if only a new gear belt or wire or set of ball bearings
or adjustment with crowbar and screwdriver
could set them humming smoothly again
like the head of a Bridgeport milling machine
doesn’t read religious tracts or set burning crosses on front lawns
or worry because the man on the radial drill wears a pink shirt
and might be gay
a machine doesn’t sit on a steel stool in the corner of the shop and start crying
because it can’t bear machining
one more doorknob
a machine doesn’t need to bet on horses
or kneel down in church pews
or knock out a man’s teeth
because he stepped on its toe
or chase its wife’s lover down a sidewalk
with a baseball bat
all it needs is some grease and some oil and a concrete floor
to be happy as a clam or a red rose or Venus
shining in a pink
Fred Voss has been a machinist for 30 years, picking up the pen and the wrench to chronicle what goes on between tin walls. He has published three books of poems with Bloodaxe, Goodstone (1991), Carnegie Hall with Tin Walls (1998) and Hammers and Hearts of the Gods (2009). His work has been featured prominently by the magazines Bete Noire in Britain and the Wormwood Review in the US. He also won the 1988 Wormwood Award. Love Birds, a collaboration with his poet wife Joan Jobe Smith, won the 1996 Chiron Prize. He lives in Long Beach, California, and works in a nearby factory.
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