Night Shift at the Plating Division of Keeler Brass

The secretaries drive by the factory
Dreaming of rich uncles.
Across the street at Charley’s,
The bar is jammed.
The neon sign pops and blinks
Like a wounded eye.
The heat rises over Godfrey Street.
In the plating section at Keeler Brass,
The acid bubbles in the iron tanks.
I strip down to my shorts,
Pull on the rubber gloves,
And lift heavy racks into the tanks,
The tendons in my arms
Pulse at the wrists.
Old Dutch works beside me,
An Allegan farmer,
He milks twenty-five cows
Before he comes to work.
He knows that college kids are worthless,
And works to wear me down.
In the last aisle, he swings the brass
Before a giant fan, the sweat drying
On his face as the metal drips
And shines like gold.
He moves among the vats,
Dreaming of metallic women in wheatfields,
Humming like machines.
He glows like burnished metal.
I am tempted to push him in,
A huge brass-plated skeleton
Swinging before the fan.
Instead, I soap my acid burners in the shower,
And hit the street, deserted now
Except for an Indian walking his dog.

:: James B. Allen

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