Two Million Feet of Vinyl
18-01-06 de verbo ad verbum
by Jim Powell
Jim Powell is the author of It Was Fever That Made the World, a Victorian Connoisseur of Sunsets, and California Blue Indian Ghost Dance, and the translator of Sappho: A Garland and Catullan Revenants. He is a Berkeley native and resident.
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The grinding wheel
requires one hour to ride six feet along its rails
traveling on a sheen of oil
driven by hidden gears. Its spinning rim just kisses
the surface of the vinyl-coated cylinder
clamped in the lathe
rotating slowly in the opposite direction
and every particle protruding
above the calibrated level is sheared off
as it passes, leaving behind a roller face
so airbrushed photographs of the cooked colored fruit
are replicated without blemish
and look natural on the labels of canned peaches.
The wheel's abrasive face obliterates all flaws
as it revolves,
the grind removes obtrusive abnormalities,
the cannery press prints clean and true,
no kinks, no smear. Each can of fruit produced entails
a label, labels require printing, and presses need
One man can tend six lathes. Punched-in on the time clock
six feet an hour for eight-hour shifts
five weekly, forty-eight weeks a year, that's two million
feet of vinyl in a lifetime ground to powder.
Jim Powell is the author of It Was Fever That Made The World (University of Chicago) , A Victorian Connoisseur Of Sunsets and California Blue Indian Ghost Dance (Sage & Pennyroyal chapbooks), and the translator of Sappho: A Garland (Farrar Straus Giroux) and Catullan Revenants (a Booklyn chapbook). His poetry, translations and essays appear in magazines in America, England, and Australia, including Agni Review, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, The New Republic, Paris Review, Poetry, Slate, Threepenny Review, Tikkun, TriQuarterly, Verse, PN Review (England), Spazio Umano (Italy), Scripsi (Australia), Numbers (England), and Bateria (Germany), in anthologies, among them the Paris Review Anthology, the Norton Introduction to Literature, the Oxford Anthology of Classical Verse In English Translation, California Poetry, From the Gold Rush To the Present, and the Addison Street Anthology, and in translation into Italian and German. Powell's honors include a MacArthur Fellowship for his work as a poet, translator, and critic, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Younger Poets Prize, and a BABRA Translation Prize He has read his poetry and spoken at venues including the Academy Of American Poets, the 'Y' in New York, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and the Sante Fe Institute, and he has taught poetry and translation workshops and courses in English and comparative literature, Homeric Greek, and Latin. He is a fourth generation native of the San Francisco Bay region and a Berkeley resident. Powell is at the University this Autumn as the Sherry Memorial Poet and as a Visiting Professor in English.