The Machine

When can I leave the Machine,
this grater on the tender parts
of my agony?
a monster looming with
iron claws and steaming breath
to baste me,
‘paled upon the hollow fangs,
its tongue a ghastly hammer
flailing madly.
I look into the mirror, hard put
to sight a soft spot in all its
false serenity.
I step upon the highway to follow
to my end, but everywhere’s a truck
rolling over me.
I step up to the table to my plate
of sewage and drink the river’s wine puking
in the sea.
I tell you it’s a long way down.
I tell you I’m not going down.

It begins with a number stamped
on your behind in cold rolled steel,
and just in case
you come out too good and don’t fit,
they’ve got a re-melter that don’t quit.
It’ll erase
the form and number and mold you
again with appropriate computered
qualities in place.
It stands you up and screws you down,
twenty threadings to the inch, micrometered
to leave no trace.
I look into the mirror, hard put
to find, in that serene block of ice,
my own living face.
Is it there? I reach to touch,
but they’ve replaced my fingers with
four screws and a brace.
I tell you it’s a long way down.
I tell you I’m not going down.

You’ll know you’re gone when
retorts and beakers bubble and churn
between your legs,
pumping into thinwall glass tubing
a golden nectar dripping with tiny
plastic eggs,
filling up the test tube tot he
thin red line, only to be plucked and
poured into kegs
with a million others. They will feed that juice
to baby Machines with super filters
to cast off your dregs.
I tell you it’s a long way down.
I tell you I’m not going down.

[Published 1970s, in Caryatid Vol II No. 1]