Nancy Hall James

Country: United States
Language(s): English


Leaving, I am always struck
by a sign on the door which reads,
“Buckle up, we need you.” I stop,
look back around at the needed
and the needy. I take the red bandanna
from my hair, set my welding googles
down, stare into the cavern
of this factory with its colors
surprisingly bright like in Kindergarten
where we learned to share. White lines
mark the floor, streets for the fork lift
passing safely by, the opened arms
of the machine carrying steel tenderly
among us as if it’s got something sweet,
a baby or a new coat the driver wants
to put on and swear home. A woman
named Mona, I remember this
because names are important,
steps back from a press and watches it
crush this steel into parts.
The parts are as mysterious as
what keeps us here. I look to the blue
flies and red cabinets holding more
work and see only the faces
privately not thinking about love
or their children, the answers
to our mysteries; thinking instead
about the thick rush hour that washed them
in like ebb-tide, And everywhere I keep seeing
these signs saying we matter—
a clean working place is a safe one—
ear plugs necessary in this area.
I can’t see the hair color of a girl
emerging from a back room as distant
as the moon. She has been assembling
chairs there with toxic glue and toxic fumes;
she wears armor like an astronaut,
sweat condensing on the face plate.
There are these fans humming
to dispel the hear that concentrates
in the air like a storm brewing, as if
our bodies have been dancing furiously
or are pent up motion about to.
Somewhere away, the welders keep burning,
I see their lightning bouncing off
the ceiling far back in the place
where we make heat and thunder.