in Melrose Park, Illinois
I did something
I made monotony of time a thousand times a day,
and the poor Black line leader everyone feared
for his volcanic rage
set strange eyes in the acrid chemical air.
The girls fresh
from Mexico looked roundly
at me in no ingles, and I too dumb, away
in myself, their shirts blotched with shampoo,
tried to imitate their deft assembly,
plastic bottles shuffling quick as their lovely
selves of hands,
all of us waiting for heaven,
the shriek of the breaktime buzzer.
Hippees copped lids and faded to Led Zeppelin.
Mothers lolled near fans, withered, and rumor
chewed on the ten minutes with a sad woman
in the john, in
the fit stink of piss.
The returning gloom was gargantuan. High lamps
burned in dark heat, sweaty magenta faces
labored for a third auto, their gender
gone out of them, gazing from lonely stalls.
I was switched
to boxes. The hot machine,
a demonic blade that sliced into cardboard
with leverlike wrath, had diced the hand
of the worker before me - he had no name -
hell reaching me through that whisper of news
that made the
only real truth, and for a while,
$2.60 an hour's worth, I gambled with my fingers,
with my guitar, that was my only woman.
Then I learned from a man with a deformed mouth
how to conceal me away in the vast warehouse,
a hermetic quiet of towering pallets.
It was my body they wanted. When finally the end
of the shift howled, the exterminating bell sweet
as love piercing the whole deaf bleary building,
we all walked free,
into sudden light outside. The natives of Yucatan
streamed in silence toward rickety cars,
not having learned how to yell yet, swarming out
among honks and shouts
but all of us pathetic on payday, ecstatic
as vague death, our souls our new shadows.