Click here to listen to Jim Powell read this poem.
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
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.