Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

[Two Poems]

by Fred Voss

2011 Years Hanging on the Cross

Christ hangs on the cross
one minute from his death
he’s heard all the stories
about us rolling away his stone and finding his body gone
because he’d ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the father
he groans
2011 years is a long time to hang on a cross
if only we’d let him die
if only we knew
heaven was an orange poppy growing on a hillside
the ring
of a 30-pound hammer in the fist of the man bringing it down to strike the steel bar
in a factory if only we knew
he Christ was only bone
and blood and heart and dream nailed
to wood
as the stars watch
and the porpoise play
Christ groans again
2011 years and we’re still looking for someone
beside ourselves
to save us
as another sheet of polar ice melts and slides
into the sea
2011 years and we still haven’t learned how to love
each other
and the rivers and the mountain lions and the eyelashes of deer and the fingers 
    of physicists and the trees
stretching their branches
toward the stars
what good is all his fame
or his image on a million crucifixes
clutched in a million palms
if we won’t let him die?
he’s almost used to the physical pain now
the swollen tongue
the blood trickling down his ribs
the nails
in his palms
it’s just this endless torture of waiting waiting waiting waiting
for us
to wake up.


No Belt Sander to Smooth Their Souls

We work together for years and years
tool steel T-square makes sure the blocks we shave are square
to one 60th of a degree
of micro-finish gauge dropped onto bronze and waved back and forth across it tells us 
that bronze is smooth
as glass
but we have no tool or instrument to measure the soul of Mitch
from Texas and Hidalgo
from Guatemala
so that after 10 years on machines next to each other they may figure out how
to talk again
after 3 years of silence
we have no shim stock
to stick under the rough edges of their personalities and machine them
level and smooth so they match
no file
to take off the rough edges of their words and manners that have cut
into each other’s hearts each time they try to forget
their worlds are a thousand miles
and 10 thousand years apart
no tweezers
to pull our an offending word or look the way they can
a steel splinter
and Mitch and Hidalgo stare at each other across the 15 feet between them
and are no closer
than they were when they first met under this tin roof 10 years ago
as they each strain desperately not to punch
the other out
or sacred mountain
stars and stripes
or holy river
there is no blueprint for milling the edges of their souls down so they may fit
no trigonometry to find a cutter path to lead them
to understanding
2 machinists
who can do anything with chuck and wrench and ball peen hammer
wishing more than anything on this earth
they could open a Machinery’s Handbook and find
the formula
for peace.
SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Fred Voss

a machinist for 32 years, has had three collections of poetry published by the U.K.’s Bloodaxe Books. His work is regularly published in magazines such as Poetry Review (London), Ambit (London), Atlanta Review, and Pearl, and has twice been the subject of feature programs on National BBC Radio 4. In 2008, he was featured at The Ledbury Poetry Festival; and in 2011, he and his wife, poet Joan Jobe Smith, were featured readers at the University of Pittsburgh.

His latest book, Hammers and Hearts of the Gods (Bloodaxe Books), was selected by UK’s leading Socialist newspaper, The Morning Star, as one of the Top Seven Books for 2009. In 2011, he was featured poet in a hardbound limited edition of Dwang(London, England); and in 2013, World Parade Books will publish his novel, Making America Strong.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury