Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blue Collar Blues

For those who are interested, what follows is a Renga between David Irwin and myself. The topic of our conversation: work, the working man/woman and the issues surrounding. Watch as it grows!

Who am I, really?
Am I the sum of my deeds?
The man that I am?

Or am I what I have made?
Is my labor who I am?

These hands and fingers,
how connected to me and
how attached to work.

Be the moment of motion
and the still moment after.

The forest is cut
by the strength of my sinews
wielding a sharp saw.

Each tree that falls to the ground
Rises again as a house.

In progress, wood falls
to steel, only to rise up
better, more useful.

And wood, burned brightly, gives rise
to steel from the ochre earth.

I want to return
to the place of alchemy,
the factory floor.

Sweat and grime are nourishment.
Making is my religion.

The body, a horse:
ride it gently when you can,
hard when you have to.

This paste of dust in my pores,
transformation's by-product.

By horse, man and plow
The field was broken and turned,
The beast the engine.

Now the work of our machines
is measured in horsepower.

Gear and cog fit well
by design; innovation
a love of future.

Water carries our boats first,
Later expands in pistons.

Smokestacks reach skyward.
Rolling plumes of steam rising
mark transformation.

Fire, the tool of alchemy
attends the act of making.

Smoke, the fool of fire,
dances in the air above
as we breathe deeply.

Shepherding toxins carries
the hidden costs far downwind.

My hands are leather.
There is metal in my blood,
my back bent over.

Creation has byproducts.
The price of progress is change

The price masks the costs:
the magic of numbers steals
what can't be counted.

The strong back organizes
for a fair share of pennies.

Industry's captains
see men as less than machines.
Profit rules their hearts.

The gold and silver they gain
will mean nothing in the end.

This circle of trade:
knowledge and pain for money,
though not that simple.

What is the purpose of work?
To create or to live well?

When we stood erect
survival was our labor.
To hunt. To gather.

Is punching a time clock yet
another hunt for our food?