RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – June 6

Poem of the Week 6/6/2017

Bill Moreland


1. The Man

Josef’s haircut was a furry brown burr.
With a red, greasy rag he wiped the plump, shaved, baby porcupine
that is his fat neck.
Muscle memory slapped the levers of the lathe,
adjusted his chuck,
tugged his nuts inside his briefs,
and transformed metal razor shavings into
a spiraling bundle of steel wool
that dropped around his oil soaked
Sears and Roebuck
steel-toe boots.

In the foundry trays there are, bathed
in the thick sickening sweetness of oil,
tiny precision parts, funneling
somewhere to assemble itself into some whole completed something.

The cutting tool’s blue-hot chamfered tip held steady.
Twenty times for every one ‘mississippi’
speeding alloy metal bits turned,
and cut, threaded to tolerances of
one ten-thousandth of an inch.
Twelve rapid-fire machines
punched out eighty-six-thousand-four-hundred screws,
per shift,
for armaments,
or precision surgical instruments.

The machinist serves both ends of the bullet.

In broken English, that Kraut cursed the Filipino kid on the hi-lo,
Pineapple! Haul your ass and put doze castings on der pallet dere, shtoopid.
Through his reach, feeding his machines,
motion and commotion,
Josef conducted a metal on metal
cutting choir
which sang,

Oy yea Oy yea Oy yea,

and from it
arced yellow sparks
trailing blue smoke,
comet flagellum
which either singed pockmarks on his face, stinging,
or they evaporated altogether.

The operator and the operation:
there is magnificence in this ugliness,
and each
has a casual audacity.

2. The Method

Near Newark Sewage, I was parked in Delawanna’s parking lot, they render fat. My windows were down; it was hot. I heard what sounded like a large bee hive; it was not. They were flies. Teed up on a flatbed truck, one dozen 5 gallon drums were on deck; each one open with pig carcasses, haunches and heads stuck out. Foreman flies hovered. Worker maggots scoured. A colony of iridescent wings and blue-green bodies shimmied in the sun; the swirling efficacy licked clean the cavities of the beasts’ hollowed-out eyes. They were the unannounced sub-contractors; their pre-rendering was startling, prepping as they did this primary ingredient for soap.

3. The Machine

Cinder fingers
write in the dust.

Sorrowful singers
cry at the dusk.

Diligent dilettantes
carry the musk.

Maniacal militants
march over rust.

A pattern of pillage
of plunder, of rubble.

Towering baubles,
the dunces will babble


still lower

into the grave

we’ll grovel,

’till those


do call



Oy yea Oy yea Oy yea.

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