Monday, September 6, 2010

some labor day reading

in honor of labor day:

"it's the same every monday, give or take a few details, a few hangovers, a few ghosts who would no longer hail us as we breathed deeply the slaughterhouse reek we no longer noticed. this shit-stink was the stench of work, my job--odor of death, pink burnt flesh, taint of dried blood and shit settling on everything like dust, all mixed up with the photochemical smog of the city pulsing around us. it's in our hair and our lungs and our eyes and I have long since gotten used to it. I did notice it once after I had been away for several weeks, having sliced off the tip of my finger. I noticed it when I returned, and it was like coming into work after first being hired, feeling that fear lock onto my soul anew, hardening inside me until I forgot about that, too. that's what I think people smell when they wrinkle thier noses, catching a whiff of my work clothes. the farmer john pork packing plant, dark blue with a wraparound porky pig mural you can see as you drive by, looming five stories above us as we walked into its shadow. it towered above us like the pyramid of the sun as we drove in on soto from the north, hemmed in by semis as we emerge under the sourthern pacific overpass--I think we checked on it subconsciously, hoping somehow that some major disaster unknonw to the public at large has destroyed the whole plant, the chill room where the mass of our work swings on a thousand hooks, and the cutting lines with wooden boxes full of knives, the sausage rooms and fetid wiener smokehouse, loading docks and animal storage pens out back, steaming pipes rising like conning towers above the yard where semis and 2 to 4 ton delivery trucks pull in and out, smokestacks above the offices and the front gate (with bobo or zack in his box, checking the trucks in). certainly in l.a., where we've seen riots, fires, earthquakes, epidemix, crack wars and the disaster of our everyday lives, we would not be too shocked if somehow the entire city of vernon was removed brom the map over the weekend. subterranean methane build-up, a refinery explosion, fuel leak in the sewer system, nuclear terrorism, something! but every monday there it was, the blue mass of farmer john rising above the l.a. river like a fortress anchoring a chinese wall of fortified industry, its sheet metal and concrete arteries pumping pig blood into the vast urban sprawl--we got a clear view of it as we crossed the river on a soto street overpass, clouds scudding across a blue sky reflected in a river flowing without depth between broad concrete banks, the smooth surface of the water scummy with brown foam that we didn't have to imagine being partly the blood of 6000 pigs dispatched between last friday and today."

(I don't know if foster, who's primarily a poet and teacher, has ever worked in a slaughterhouse, but even in my limited experience there--a mere 2 weeks, but that was enough--he has the sense down hot as blood.)

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