Sunday, 03 April 2022 09:29

Two new poems from Fred Voss

Written by
in Poetry
Two new poems from Fred Voss

Beethoven whistles at a cat in a seventh storey window

by Fred Voss

Some men in this machine shop
work slowly as they can
without getting fired
others work at breakneck speed like their lives depend on it
I prefer to work the way all the poppies on the hillside
the way the sea otter cracks open clams he has found while floating
on his back
in the fog
some men clock in to this machine shop each morning at 6 am with their head hung down
like they are dragging a ball and chain
I want to reach for my wrench each morning
the way a 2,000-year-old Sequoia redwood tree reaches
for the sun
lube oil
flowing to my machine table’s tool steel ways
like the blood pulsing in the veins of the blue whale deep beneath
the sea
some men flash a dog-eat-dog scowl like they are ready to work so fast
they will make every other man in the shop
look bad
I want to tighten nuts down around the threads of bolts
the way waves have curled and rolled in toward beaches
for a billion years
and the lion’s roar makes every beast on the African veldt
lift its head
I am not here
to compete or hang my head like a slave or work my ass off trying to make any other worker
look bad
I am here in this shop gripping a hammer with my fist
because the stars shine
and Jim Morrison held an arena full of 15,000 people spellbound
with his silence
and red magma shakes the earth to explode into the air and make
and doves build nests and carpenters pound nails and Beethoven whistled I work
the way Jupiter turns and Thelonious Monk laughs and all of us
take the next step
as hummingbirds search for nectar and the roots of trees wait
for water
and the cat leaping out of a 7th story window lands
on its feet
I work because the pendulum swings
and icicles drip and little girls stand on tiptoe to hug their fathers
because Halley’s Comet returns
as hearts beat and roses

A thousand secrets of steel in his fingers

by Fred Voss

When I was young and learning to be a machinist
I’d be hired
at a company and roll my toolbox on a cart down an aisle
to a machine
or Cincinnati vertical mill or maybe even a Polish horizontal mill with a name
I’d never heard of before
strange knobs and gear shifts and ancient gear belts
and automatic feed levers to the machine table’s “x” and “y” axes
even “Machine Start” buttons I couldn’t find
puzzled me
a block of steel that had to be turned into a part per a blueprint
in front of me
a roof over my head and the bread on my table
at stake
as machinist veterans who knew the machines backwards and could make them do anything
watched me
out of the corners of their eyes and stayed silent
and kept the secrets of sine bars and trigonometry tables and universal heads
and spindle speeds and red-hot chips and steel screams
to themselves
until an old machinist with a thousand secrets of steel in his fingers would finally walk over
and show me the handles I needed to throw
the stub drill
I needed to lock into the Jacobs chuck
the set-up with nuts and bolts and clamps I needed to make
on the machine table to machine the part
an old machinist
who remembered what it was like to wake up in the morning and not know
if you could make your way
in this world
who hadn’t become as hard
as crowbars and ballpeen hammers and concrete floors and tin walls
and razor-sharp tool steel cutters and foremen and companies
who worshipped dog-eat-dog bottom lines
a machinist
who knew there was nothing in this world
more important
than a flesh and blood
helping hand.

Read 491 times Last modified on Sunday, 03 April 2022 09:36
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.