Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Year In The Factory

There are thighs and then there are thighs--
yours put foreign powers on DefCon 5
out of pure jealousy.

Night shift at the factory is enough to melt skulls,
reverse the flow of hearts, turn bones to industrial byproduct
out of sheer boredom.
I loved you wearing jeans and safety goggles,
better than gown and pearls any day.

We took a picnic lunch to the city park,
and set our eyes to floating on the gray waters of the
flammable, compromised river that cuts through it.
"This is fun," we lied,
and fed bread to a one-eyed pigeon 
who kept missing with his first peck.

The customs agents had stopped me the time before;
they searched my emphysemic, cookie-cutter piece of shit
right down to the wheel wells.
Holding up my rubber boots, one of them asked,
"Do you work at the plant?"
Well, what do you think, asshole? What do you think?
So you got even with them for me the next time--
you, fluent in Russian, Romanian and doubletalk
pretended not to understand the agent's fractured schoolroom parlance,
and mumbled until he let you through just to be rid of you.

How crazy that you should be Catholic--
I've never seen a craftier shoplifter.
Each time the grid went down, I kissed you for your pilfered candles,
your flashlight, your shitty little radio that kept us informed
as I buried my face in your sweetness like a supplicant.

There are thighs and then there are thighs,
and yours are the finest ever to grace my cracker box apartment
that I had to be on a waiting list for years, to get.
Everything is always in short supply--
once, you backed me through a rope of yellow hazard tape 
and right into a defective forklift
with a kiss, on work time.
My shoe soles picked up God knows what from the filthy floor,
but my heart was happy
as the assembly lines rattled behind us.

There is plenty everywhere that can poison a person,
or sow cancer seeds that will explode later on.
We gave that year of our lives to the production of jugs of kitchen cleanser,
since banned.
Everyone who worked there had red hands and brittle nails,
despite the gloves, despite the icons some of us prayed to.
Oh well.
I was happy,
and even though you left just as it all seemed so good,
that year was pure, flawless, redeeming even,
like love can be sometimes,
and as your thighs definitely were, and still are,
in some other woman's bed
in another town,
where you mumble into her ear in Romanian
and she holds you closer
for all the good such motions ever do.

for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads



Sioux said...

Okay, Shay, you started my morning being pissed off. ;)

This is my favorite poem about two factory worker-lovers. You got into their heads with such skill and with such pristine images.

I hate you (still). ;)

Anonymous said...

"There are thighs and then there are thighs--
yours put foreign powers on DefCon 5 out of pure jealousy."


LOVE this, though i'm sad for those who will end up with cancer.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I love the whole feel that this takes place in a dystopian landscape which is both familiar and foreign, the main characters pop off the page breathing honesty and passion - icons of the human ability to endure. And I like the fact that you have left me with a question to ponder all day: Is one year enough time with a true lover, if it was all joy? I think I would be a little greedy if it were me, and want more time, until I turned into a nagging bitch whom the poor lover had to flee.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Again, my favorite flavor: bittersweet.

Marian said...

yeah, that last line is killer. does that motion ever do any good? it does, when it does, and then it doesn't. i really like your weaving of this tale, Shay. excellent.

Mary said...

A true gem of a tale (poem)..and yup, bittersweet, as Mosk has said. What a treat to read this morning.

Ella said...

YOU do this so well! I too love the last line~ Yes, your bittersweet fruit does spread a landscape to ponder!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Such a bittersweet tale, so well told. For Ella's challenge I am to pick one of your poems as my favorite. The dilemma - they are ALL my favorite. Your writing always makes me catch my breath in wonder.

This poem goes straight to the heart. And one year is not enough.

Daryl E said...

never enough time ...

Susan said...

I enjoyed this narrative so much! It takes a while to refocus the joys through the surgical loss and this poem DEFINITELY lets me know what the narrator misses, what she re-feels a little in the retelling. Those thighs! That bliss!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love this. Excellent! I immediately thought of An Officer and a Gentleman with Richard Gere---only, there were a few different circumstances of course. ;)

Hannah said...

Brilliant...I just love the the flavor of passion contrasts so awesomely with the sound and image of the machinist-factory backdrop. Such an excellent write, Shay!!!

hedgewitch said...

Well, I'm late to the party so you already know this is gorgeous, in a brittle, broken-nailed and lost sort of way. Every bitter banned-by-the-FDA drop must be drunk to yield the kind of sweetness this factory produces for those who have worked overtime to find they can never catch up on production. One of your best, Shay, and as you know, that is as good as it gets in my book.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ginsberg, meet Messrs. O'Rourke and Springsteen, and that may be Mr. Fred Exley in the corner. I believe you already know Mr. Burroughs?

Kay L. Davies said...

Fabulous. I'm glad I broke my rule (don't read the others until my own is posted) because there is no way I could ever write like this.
Your genius makes a pastiche of passion and factory into a love song.

HermanTurnip said...

I'm loving these story poems. You're getting better and better with 'em. They're so good that I find myself reading through them multiple times so I can fully absorb them.

Isadora Gruye said...

can this be considered bittersweet or even a love poem? I am afraid that those terms would be to simple for this gorgeous work. Something like this that sprawls and crawls can only really be considered one thing to me: epic.

From the "nowhere nationstate/ soviet block meets little orphan annie" feel to the Ike Reilly-esque thigh worshipping, to the one eyed pigeon pecking away in futility next to a burning or soon to be burning river (didn't REM write a song about that? :) ) this is mesmerizing in scope. I love the playfulness you show: messing with the border guards, a catholic shoplifting candles--in my mind they were those ones that the guys sell from the trunk of their cars at the Saturday market, the ones with the saints screen printed on them. I love it especially in contrast to the broken down elements which are also so clearly a part of the narrators life: the shotty electrics of the city, the cookie cutter piece of shit, the carcinogens she helps produce.

Truly stellar showing here, Lady. viva la

Siggi in Downeast Maine said...

Bittersweet and wonderful to boot.
Too many wonderful things to mention...they'd only repeat all that has been written above.
Thank you.

Susie Clevenger said...

I agree with Kay. I am so glad I didn't read this before I posted mine because it would have never seen the light of day. There is such joy and agony in bittersweet. You have written it well.

vivinfrance said...

This is so different from everything I've read before that I have no words sufficient to praise it. You paint such vivid scenes and characters.

My only tiny niggle is that the font and size of your sidebar means that there is not room to read your longer lines as they were, no doubt, written. Could you tinker with your settings?

Emma Major said...

wow wow wow

Mama Zen said...

This is such incredible writing, Shay. I can't even begin to comment.

G-Man said...

Such brilliant nuances...
We once owned a turkey that was missing the top part of his beak. Everytime he pecked at a corn kernal it shot right up out of the top. I don't know how he stayed alive...:-)
Happy Holiday Week-End Shay....G

Karen said...

I'm with WK on this one, but then I read the tags and saw "Boris and Natasha live again" and am laughing my a** off!

Yes, you are amazing, but I guess you know that. How could you hold such talent and not?

Helen said...

My dear ... you must find a publisher!!!! I echo the comments of those who came before me. Happy Holidays, Shay.

Lolamouse said...

If this poem were a painting, I see it in gray and red. Gorgeous!

Raven said...

This is one of the best poems that I have read this year. Period! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and many blessing for a Happy New Year.

Dark Angel said...

Something about love in a grimy setting is so much more pristine... like it floats above.