Marvin Lurie

The Box Factory: 1955 (One)

I can see it in his eyes.
This is his life.
I'm the honky college kid about to mess with it.
We are on opposite sides of a steel work table,
making olive drab quart-sized boxes.
We take handful-thick stacks of cardboard sheets
off the cutting press,
three rows of four boxes,
break them apart,
pound scrap off the tabs with ball peen hammers.
He shows off his power with double handfuls.
I work faster with smaller stacks,
keep the delivery rack from piling up so high
even he can't handle the load.
By lunch I earn a lesser degree of resentment.

We hammer, sweat, trash talk,
fill skids with flat boxes for six weeks,
buck fifty an hour, 8 to 4:30,
half hour lunch, two 10 minute breaks,
machines grind and clatter around us
on their own schedules.
I get a broken-toothed smile
when we work fast enough to get ahead of the press
to take a seconds-long break.
I just keep thinking,
five more weeks,
four more weeks,
three more weeks...
and I'm out of here with school money,
leave him to his life.

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