Wednesday, 20 October 2021 09:18

Beautiful as a picket line under a rising sun 

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in Poetry
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Beautiful as a picket line under a rising sun 

Beautiful as a picket line under a rising sun       

by Fred Voss            

“Beautiful!”
my Lead Man would exclaim as he held an aircraft part I’d cut out of aluminum
up into the light of the 10,000-Watt bulbs shining down from the 70-foot-high machine shop ceiling
and it WAS beautiful
in those days of the unions
decades ago
my Lead Man’s ex-hippie long hair tied in a pony tail hanging down
his back
beautiful
as our union wages that paid for houses and boats and college educations for our children
and vacations to Europe and the pensions solid as a rock we looked forward to
and the health care we could count on to carry us through heart attack
or cancer
beautiful
as the muscle and pride of Gus the 40-year-veteran bedmill operator who walked
the concrete floor around his machine
like a lion
making mountains of steel and aluminum chips no man
could match
so he could ride home on his full-dresser Gold Wing motorcycle shaking his long hair
in the wind
and laugh
“Right On!”
our Lead Man would yell like a Black Panther freedom marcher in 1969 asserting his right to be
a human being
when he picked up and admired an aircraft part we’d cut as we machinists
looked at each other and smiled
strong as a union picket line
under a rising sun
a brotherhood
solid as a 30-pound tool steel cutter carving titanium
into an airplane wing carry-through section
sure as a 7-foot-long boring bar shaving a hole through a big-as-a-car landing gear
that would let an airplane carrying 300 people
land
soft as a good dream on a goose-down pillow
we were right on
and beautiful
as Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy before they were shot
a machinist
with a union card in his pocket letting him walk so tall no boss
could ever stare him down
an aircraft wing actuator we’d machined
sitting shining and perfect in our palm
a grandson
we’d lifted into our arms smiling up at us
because he knew
we’d always leave him
a better world.

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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.