Fiber Optics Poem By Joseph Millar

Fiber Optics Poem By Joseph Millar

On Labor Day the last barbecue smoke
had drifted into the branches,
and Public TV showed the legendary strike
at J&L Steel in Aliquippa,
the cops opening fire
on the worker’s picnic, the men in shirtsleeves running,
the women, some carrying children, falling in the Pennsylvania dirt.
I’m thinking about this,
driving my new truck down Highway 280,
getting twelve miles to the gallon on the company credit card
with a storm coming in from the west.
We’re working nights and week-ends pulling wire
into the ceilings of Silicon Valley,
moving our ladders just ahead of the drywall crews
with their knives of adhesive,
their radios blasting Metallica,
the carpet gang in the finished wing
spreading beige-colored glue on the floor,
nobody talking, hurrying along in the midnight glare of the heat lamps.
Impossible anyone here would strike,
though we’re comrades of sorts,
and hungry for something,
listening to rain pound the glass doors
of this palace paid for
by venture capitalists, whose appetite nobody questions.
Inside it’s a hardware bonanza: boxes
of galvanized fasteners overflow onto the Visqueen tarp
that covers the stairs like a membrane.
Somebody squats by the telephone switch,
wiring teflon patch bays into brilliant steel racks,
and testing each pathway
the delicate voltages follow.
Everybody wants to work, the more hours the better,
especially the young ones, snowy with gypsum dust, wolfing their lunch
on a stack of new two-by-fours
while the overtime keeps piling up
like valet parking behind the first tee
where the owners and union reps, weekday afternoons
gather to discuss trade.
Outside the trenches and conduits slowly fill with water
and two of us crouch in a low cement box,
adjusting the filament cable,
the fiberglass link that feeds the big hubs.
And nobody’s wondering about Karl Marx or the poems of Cesare Pavese.
We’re trying to stay down out of the wind
and close up the resin-filled splice case
so the ghostlight signal can travel across,
sending its neuron-flickering code
as fast as a man can think.

Fiber Optics Poem By Joseph Millar

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