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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Downsized at 50+ Temp Jobs - No. 3 1987

Temp job No. 3

A Paper mill
Along the Mississippi River
Near St. Louis
Will most likely move to China soon.

The paper spurts from the machines that make it
Into rolls not unlike toilet paper
But humongous
Fifteen foot diameter
Twenty-six wide
Spins on a glittering steel shaft.

Trimmers at each end cut off rough edges
Take an inch or so from paper still to hot to touch
After a final pressing to desired thickness.
Seemingly endless spaghetti paper shavings
Drop into an open square in the thick concrete floor.

My job below.
There is a moat
A steel canal of flowing paper mush
Like oatmeal—bleached
Hot river of pulp
Flows into whirling bladed shredders
Then around to meet them once again.

When trimming starts above
An endless white snake
Slithers through the hole
At high speed
Piles up fast
One has to hustle or get buried in it
Grabbing armfuls
Dropping them into the pulp canal
The strip adheres to its thick primal soup
Gets  swept way
Into the blades
Leaving a variety of paper cuts behind
Impossible to stay untangled from the mess
Too hot and humid for long sleeves
Eighty degrees
Eighty percent humidity.

Discarded sheets of poster-board come down as well
Sail crazily
Short dance on hot air
It all goes in
Doing my best to keep reduced
Fast growing mountain
Hot white paper scrap
Then suddenly it stops.

A moment of peace
Some fifteen minutes
While they put a new roll on the shaft.
I think to sneak a rest
Lay down a couple minutes
On a sheet of cardboard on the floor
There’s no one here but me
No windows
Just bare concrete walls
At 3 AM . . . inside this night shift hell.

Some wise guy throws a bucket of dye into the hole
I’m now light blue in color
Wide awake
Looks like a long night
Probably my last here.

Published: Blue Collar Review 2011

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