Long hours in the factory
have transformed me.
I have become the assembly line
crawling like a centipede
through the concatenation
of time clock rhythms
and pneumatic sighs.
I whisper and hiss,
clang and grate,
squeak and groan.
I am the song of tired bones and
worn out shoes on concrete floors.
I am the dream of youth forsaken.
I am the sprocket of fear
I canít escape.
I am the teeth in the gear.
I am the cog, the shaft, the wheel
of the conveyor.
I am the block and tackle,
pulley and cable.
I am the hourly drone
of monotonous doom.
I bow to the Madonna of Machinery
whose nipples are like grease fittings,
whose crankcase is a womb.
I am the fire in the foundry.
I am the pit.
I twist nuts, shoot screws,
and spit rivets like slang.
My fingers are pliers,
my wrists are wrenches,
my fist a stubborn
ball-peen hammer.
I am the numb brain
and the long drive home.
I am the lone neon sign
blinking in the dark rain:
-- Last Chance -- Last Chance -- Last Chance --
My eyes see nothing in the distance.
I am the strain in the torsion bar.
I am the harness.
My arms bear the scars of my labor
like randomly tatooed emblems of honor. I have become the soul of production,
the powertrain of perpetual motion,
the chassis of suspended mobility.
I am the thunder in the die,
the blue flame of the weld,
the fume in the lung of the painter.
I am a centerless grinder,
a lathe, a drill.
I am tinnitus, carpal tunnel,
the copper coil of repetitive trauma.
I am the key in the ignition,
the spark plug,
the throttle.
My blood is thicker than oil.
My saliva more toxic
than cutting fluid.
I am the heart of the engine,
the phallic piston,
the cam of accelerating continuity.
I am the hub
of mechanical wisdom
and spiritual ingenuity.
I am steel toed, hard headed,
and hydraulic.
I lift and crank and twist
and laugh at pain.
I am the still point of torque.
I am the fender, the axle, the bolt
in the tie rod.
I am the strut and swagger
of the driver
as he pops the clutch and
pushes the pedal to the floor.
I am the grumble of the muffler.
I am the Rouge.
I was here, Mr. Ford,
before you were born.
I will be here, Mr. Ford,
when you
are a long time gone.

Gregg Shotwell, UAW Local 2151