Factories fascinated him. He read management magazines.
He lived in a manufactured world, everything
He touched was mass produced. In a factory.
After the eye was gone, it was time to get a job.
“You can’t do this job with one eye.” said the guy
Who did the hiring. “Give me three days.
If you don’t want me then, I’ll leave and admit it.
I can do the job.”
He had no idea what the job was.
Electronic substrate silk-sceen printing
For digital clocks and watch faces.
Must have been 1975. Digital clocks
And watches just hitting the market.
Slate black chips, electronic circuit
Lines in silver or gold paint on one side
Rows of eights in brighter ink on the other.
“3,000 chips a night.”
Night shift. Squeegee the screen.
Place chip on platen. Step on pedal.
Take chip from platen, carefully –
Don’t smear it. Use a spatula. Put the chip
On the conveyor belt between you
And woman on identical machine
Bakes for a few feet and drops three inches
15 feet away where inspectors
Seek broken lines
Through fluorescent ring around
The magnifying center glass.
Everyone had to produce. Everyone had
To inspect. Rotation. He couldn’t see
Fast enough. Then he noticed.
It’s a pattern. To look for imperfections
Is the long way home. Look instead for
Perfect patterns. Remove imperfect patterns.
Inspecting sped up. Errors ebbed.
But it was the machines. The sound patterns.
The rhythm. He sped the tempo,
To keep from getting bored
And to blot out the radio less
Like music than like someone
Shouting out the time.
The machine fused with him.
He often awoke believing he’d fallen
Asleep at work at the Machine
He could play like a drum kit.
Tempo expansion. Syncopation.
By the time his output hit 12,000 he wanted
To scream. He went to the office.
“I quit.” They said, “We’ll double your pay.”
He said, “Too late, I can’t take it.”
Of course, he just turned around and got a job
In a different factory. Jet airplane filters.
But that is a different story entirely.
And he hadn’t yet learned that there are ways
That are neither numbness nor insanity
To engage with seemingly infinite repetition.
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