My black cats, my grey cats:
THE PHYSICAL WORLD
I went to work in the huge factories
along Newton Creek in Bushwick.
At sunset I sidled up to a foreman
tallying pallets by the red water.
At down I punched in, still fast asleep.
I camped behind my machine
like Teacher craning over a pupil's shoulder
and together we made the past, the future,
my father's death, my mother's stroke,
the Tet Offensive, the killing in Dallas.
The secret was the blade: everything it touched
became it's own absence.
I had been coached: Wildcat, General Strike,
but there were very few people
stooping under those huge klieg lights
and they seemed so fragile,
lonelier perhaps than me:
Marchesi grinning at a pinched nerve,
Tomasi with the pack of Camel Filters
rolled in the sleeve of his mesh T-shirt,
Rose from Ghana, missing one fingertip.
When we organized, when we were fired,
there was always one more factory
making ball bearings, Lucite tabs
that hold collar studs, baby spoons,
metronomes, fan belts, clock hands.
Once I walked all the way home at dusk,
kicking Bazooka wrappers and sodden leaves.
I found a hollow drilled acorn
and pocketed it, stroking the embossed lid
with the ball of my thumb: needs work.