Our Father and the Machines

Bruce Snider

At sixteen he worked part-time stocking magazines at the truck stop, sorting Playboy and People before his shift at Sal’s Tool & Die where he’d clean the milling machines, wiping lathes and vertical lifts, sweeping the trash left behind by the full-time tool fitters and machinists. He’d mop the bathrooms, unstopping toilets where, he’d swear, something died. Afterwards, he’d count the people on the late bus home, more people it seemed than when he’d left, a blur of faces he could die into if he let himself, time pausing like the stopped music of the grinding machines. Those damn machines, he’d think, looking at the seats of people all headed to their separate stops. But that was years before he left for the army, before the time after the foreman died. Sal’s Tool & Die, of course, is gone, machines locked in rust, a parody of time– no punch clock, no people, no crates hoisted onto forklifts. And the truck stop is the ghost of a truck stop, a vision of how things die into themselves, nothing left of those glossy-paged machines called Us and People, Newsweek, Hustler, Time.

Bruce Snider is the author of three poetry collections — Fruit, The Year We Studied Women, and Paradise, Indiana. He is co-editor of The Poem’s Country: Place and Poetic Practice and is currently Chair of the Department of English at the University of San Francisco.