The wheel was always reinvented,
so engineers reinvented the reinventing
of invention of the cage of sameness.
No two cylinders in a V8 engine
are the same, as no two engines are
the same. Oh yes, they are, they are.
The first word of this idea is a joke,
or it is the word that makes matter matter
so we can believe in essential essence.
If the first word is a joke, we are the butt
of it, and the joke is that machines do not
need us. They never did. It was a lie.
Go down the path to the factory the way
you went the day before, remember the day
before. It’s over there in the shadow.
Speed up was Ford’s idea, the workers
abused by an ex-boxer. Harry was his name.
Harry slept with Satan. Satan rolled him over.
Speed up meant no line went down unless
Earth was somehow stopped and Henry Ford
could not pay the Beast what he owed him.
Days are all one day in factories, each day
stamped out in a shop where time is made, where
dark matter is the ability to walk out, to strike.
Factory, a definition: boxes stacked up
to look like buildings, no windows, people
inside making junk from one useful thing.
Believe in the beauty of machines, be saved,
walk backward from rivers of resentment, pick
a stick lying in the bushes, lean on it, pray.
Rusted machines are making their blood
from the feeling of being castaway, undone
by what is better. The blood has a tongue.
Geometry makes the soul of machines,
a hypotenuse connecting the dark corners
where wheels seethe with envy of wings.
Chrysler should have been a perfect car,
the suggestion of gems in the music of it,
its engines above any sound of assembly.
Men and women are transformed by machines,
gender remaking itself once touched by hands
looking to claim surety, dominion, a power.
At the end of a day, all the machines sit
on their asses, hung over with pleasing humans,
plotting the day when their thoughts connect.
We were supposed to be afraid of robots
taking our jobs, working themselves to death
gladly, sending us out to work jobs in pieces.
Joe Gans smoked, his arms pistons,
the ring a giant man smasher, its power
black men aching to redeem a black love.
A gun is a machine, a revolver spins,
a carbine sings across the street, a nine
millimeter can walk, talk, stalk, bam.
A slave ship is thief incarnate, silent,
creeping up on the unsuspecting souls
living innocence, now stolen forever.
Escaping from slavery, you needed
hammers for the shackles, a compass
for direction, a knife for all the liars.
The loudness, the eyes, the molten steel,
fire governed by holiness, rims of metal
burners, wings as jets, the sound a voice.
Afaa M. Weaver’s recent awards include the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Award, his fourth Pushcart prize in the 40th anniversary of the Pushcart anthology, inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2014, 2015, and the 2015 Phillis Wheatley Book Award in Poetry from the Harlem Book Fair. His latest book is City of Eternal Spring (U Pitt 2014). Afaa teaches at Simmons College and in the MFA program at Drew U.