Poetry: Air Ratchet & Forklift by Austin LaGrone

With this poem, LaGrone gives us a special gift: a reminder of the beauty of language found at work. “Air Rathchet & Forklift” twists and squeals and cuts the tongue on sounds we tend to forget the magic of—what else is good poetry for?


Air Ratchet & Forklift

Some days, when flatbeds
jake-brake or a cheater axle groans,
I miss my time at GM.
The clamor of chassis, the percussion
of retractable cable, the jive of Dolemite.
I miss my lunchbox. The silver thermos.
The foxed copy of Ivan Denisovich
I read aloud to Jimmy’s sister.
She ran fuel lines, wrote letters
to a boy from Magdalena, coughed blood
into her sleeve some mornings
after doing rails. Her big body
a calendar where I struck out the days.
Then there was Little Ricky. He’d drive
to work with his television in the trunk,
afraid his wife would pawn it. Or Lester,
who never spoke, just fisted singles
into the automated soup dispenser
until it broke. You should have seen the hole
he kicked into the side of it. I suppose
you can bait rituals down to the final swill.
You can leave & return like a ghost
but you’ll never get inside the machine.



Austin LaGrone

Born in Baton Rouge, Austin LaGrone is the author of Oyster Perpetual, winner of the 2010 Idaho Prize for Poetry (Lost Horse P, 2011) and Call Me When You Get To Rosie’s, winner of the 2016 Bitter Oleander Library Award for Poetry (The Bitter Oleander P, 2017) His work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Poetry International and elsewhere. He holds degrees from St. John’s College and New York University and lives in Sweden.

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