I've reconsidered a few things with the first piece of the zinc factory series. A new take:
The Splasher Floor
On the splasher floor no one spoke. We worked
together by the smidgy light of furnace vents,
the molten metal and the cherry tips
of cigarettes. Each day a hustle of steam
and sweat: break the clay, pour the zinc, haul
the chains, dam the trough in time. Hoist the buckets,
mind the flames, pour each ingot down the line.
Soiled clouds rose from each of us and the dust
of the floor became greasy with fat.
A body is ¾ water and by the hour
we evaporated, the rivets in our jeans
burning like hornets. And the old guys had it worse,
hauling the extra pounds, those extra years
darkly, tasting zinc at the back of the throat,
leering, half choking, and proud of simply surviving
second shift, dangling out the 4th floor window
breathing dead light between smokes before dawn.
Hot as hell before the sun was even up. And what
did I know of hell then, all of twenty,
working the college summer break for beers?
Those men had given years, hefting Vulcan loads
in sync, hauling fire, making shadows. And still
they danced circles around me on the slippery floor.
Perspiration mingling in the air—Gonzalez,
Menendez, Shingleton and the rest—was what
we breathed for three and a quarter an hour.