Fred Voss


MACHINIST ON TRIAL AT 3 A.M.

Somewhere there is a bomb bay door-handle
I made 21 years ago
cruising at 30,000 feet ready to drop a nuclear bomb
from a K-20 bomber
I only wanted a paycheck
stumbled
through a door into an employment office and was told to sign
on the dotted line
saved myself from the street
when times were hard
somewhere
a deep-sea diver is welding the hull of a ship 100 feet
underwater
breathing through the valve block I cut
out of brass
17 years ago
somewhere an old man turns a wheelchair wheel
with a hub I finished 12 years ago
on a lathe
while a gun barrel
I bored out for an M-89 helicopter 24 years ago shoots a grandmother
in Iraq
I turn
over at night sweating and unable to sleep
I can feel that bomb bay door handle in my hand
that helicopter gun-barrel
still gleaming
where I cut it on my machine-table
I only want to eat
want my grandchild and wife
to eat
wheelchair wheel
oxygen valve block
bomb bay door handle
helicopter gun-barrel
they point me to a machine and bring me a bar of brass or aluminum or steel with a crane
and I fire up that razor-sharp cutter at 500
or 5000 rpm
never knowing if I am about to cut myself a sweet dream
or a nightmare.



MONSTER IN HIGH HEELS

Frank is on his 3rd beer
and really enjoying himself as the giant acid-fanged ants
in that old sci-fi movie classic Them!
battle
soldiers with flame throwers in the concrete riverbed in downtown L.A.
just like they did when he first saw the movie on TV
as a kid.
After a week of battling plus-or-minus one-thousandth-of-an-inch tolerances
on holes in steel plates in the machine shop
it's a relief
to watch the army sweat it out
against 30-foot-tall acid-fanged ants
bent on chewing them up.
Jane
chews her nails
and has a meltdown as she and Frank sit in bed watching TV and the giant ants
seem to jump off the screen at her.
Finally Them! is over.
The ants are dead and Frank is satisfied because science and the army nailed the ants
just like he did those plus-or-minus one thousandth tolerances
when Jane announces,
"Look! Next they're showing Mr. Skeffington! My favorite Bette Davis movie!
If you made me watch Them!, I'm making you watch Mr. Skeffington!"
Frank can feel his face go white and his fists clench
as he feels like ripping his shirt off and tearing it in 2.
He remembers the 5 minutes of Mr. Skeffington they watched a year ago.
"Shit! I've got to watch Mr. Skeffington?!
I've got to watch Mr. Skeffington for 2 hours?!
Holy fucking shit!"

Somehow
2 hours of watching that prima donna bitch Bette Davis
simper and flirt and scowl
and treat her hopelessly doting husband Claude Rains
like shit
is a lot scarier that 30-foot-tall acid-fanged
ants.