Posts Tagged: race

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Online Feature: “A Dark and Simple Place” by Adrienne Perry

When Uncle Richie finally moved out, he left Cheyenne and headed south for Greeley, Colorado. Richie wasn’t known for fresh starts, but Greeley promised dividends he hadn’t touched in years: a room of his own, steady work, lunch breaks. Maybe a union. He got a job at Monforts meatpacking plant—Monfort, actually, but Richie pluralized it.

In the early nineties, Greeley was anathema to me, as bad a hick town as Cheyenne, my hometown. Greeley had a trademark funk that blighted its squat banks and convenience stores. A little hopeless, the place made me feel, with that sad-angry smell seeping out of Monforts’ boxy white buildings and the machines inside them that transformed lowing livestock into stroganoff meat. Work in a slaughterhouse—that was hard for me to imagine, and I couldn’t picture Richard Riles suiting up over his Bart Simpson t-shirt and ripped Levi’s, his graying Afro pressed against a cheap shower cap. He didn’t have the constitution.


Meatcutting Testbook, Part I.*

It is recommended that this book be kept
in the instructor’s file
and each test be detached
and given to the student
as he or she becomes ready for it.

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Poetry Feature: here is the sweet hand you always turn back on yourself by francine j. harris

here is the sweet hand you always turn back on yourself


and hold where the ear goes and try to hear what you need to hear.

the way it was put. a bird went to the phone pole and knocked a hundred

times and here i was looking for a hammer all along to knock back.


all the tools are crushed. i swear to them i only make sense between periods.

translation comes awfully late and if the woodpecker got out of control, caught up

in a pole rung, for example. well, my forehead. i am well pecked and out of excuse.

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Online Feature: “Hip Joints” by Joy Castro

In the late afternoon of the twentieth century, after Vietnam and before Anita Hill, in the Appalachian highlands of rural West Virginia, it was senior year, and Madonna and the Police filled the airwaves: “Like a Virgin,” “King of Pain.”

Every noon, I drove the six miles from East Fairmont High School to the little machine shop tucked on a winding back road. I’d park in the gravel lot and let the car battery run the radio while I ate my brown-bagged tuna sandwich and stared out the windshield.  My classmates at East Fairmont were dissecting little dead animals and solving for y.

I was done with all that; I was impatient; I had all the credits I needed to graduate. I took morning classes so the state wouldn’t charge me with truancy, and then I left for work.

“I machine artificial hip joints for 3M,” I would say when people asked.

It was tedious, it was eight hours every weekday, it was just the whir of machines for company, the other workers attending silently to their own stations.  But at least it wasn’t McDonald’s or Dairy Queen; I didn’t have to wait on people from high school.  And it beat minimum wage by a couple of dollars an hour.  Sixteen years old, forty hours a week:  I felt lucky.

The titanium hip joints were pocked with small regular holes; they looked like halves of silver Wiffle balls.  Titanium:  strong and light, sleek and durable, a perfect metal for aerospace engineering or replacing the worn interiors of human bodies.  I’d imagine the gloved hands of surgeons inserting the shining silver balls into the dark slick privacies of the pelvis.

In the shop, the machines were huge teal cubes, large and clean, twice as tall as I was, with hot moving steel parts at their hearts where I put my hands to lock down and then remove the half-balls. The machines all had red warning labels that showed how you could die or lose a limb.

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