Monday, 17 December 2018 11:28

A hammer ringing out like a Beethoven trumpet

Written by
in Poetry
A hammer ringing out like a Beethoven trumpet

A hammer ringing out like a Beethoven trumpet

by Fred Voss

The new young machinist is in love
with the steel block
he holds his machinist tool square up against it and lifts
the block with all the muscle in his arms up against
the light
streaming through a high machine shop window and sees he has cut the block perfectly
and smiles
he’s had 6 months L.A. tech trade school and a year and a half on the job training
in this shop
and he knows how to use a micrometer and hold a blueprint dimension and shave
a bronze block until it shines diamond-bright and at 24 years of age he feels he has the world
in the palm of his hand
and I look over at him
I’m 66 and I’ve been at this machinist trade for over 40 years now
been laid off 7 times
fired 4
collected years-worth of unemployment sitting in a kitchen chair looking out at an alley wondering if I would soon live there
I’ve set my toolbox on a workbench so many times and thought
I’d found a home
only to see the company move to Arizona or Mexico
or have an owner cut my wages in half because he took a seminar
with Donald Trump
on how to squeeze work out of men
like water from a stone
I’ve had supervisors scream in my face
like I was a dog
been put on graveyard shift where I fell asleep on my feet in front
of a machine
seen the trail of blood across a concrete floor following a man who has just cut off
his finger
it isn’t all a hammer striking a bar of brass until that hammer rings out like a Beethoven trumpet
it isn’t all the beads of sweat on your back true
as sparkling stars
or the laughter of men who have thrown their bodies against wrenches all week slapping
each other’s shoulders as paychecks fall into their hands
and I see the new young machinist holding the block of steel up against the square
in the light and smiling
and hold my tongue and don’t tell him what I know
if only it were simple
as a square block and heart and muscle and 2+2=4
if only it were beautiful
as the leap of the tiger and the sharpness of the saw-tooth mountain peak
against the dawn-red sun
if only we didn’t live in a world
made by Capital.


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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.