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Midnight Shift At Quality Plastics

19 April, 2021: Midnight Shift At Quality Plastics

Read a Poem

Midnight Shift At Quality Plastics

By Pamela R. Anderson

You learn solitude when you run a press
8 hours a day. You learn to throw flat cardboard
onto the cement floor to cushion throbbing feet.
You learn to doze by the time clock, sleeping
through 8 minutes of a 10-minute break.
 
When the wasp lands on the front of your red t-shirt,
wings flexing with suspicious deliberation,
you learn to tamp down terror and lift it away
with the edge of the plastic knife
you just trimmed with a razorblade.
 
The hopper boy pours plastic pellets into the gaping
press mouth, where it melts then surges
through the extruder and into the molds.
A 7-second press makes you quick
with the blade.  You learn to be quick at 4 am.
 
You learn to wrap your bloody palm in cloth strips
when the blade slips. You learn just how far
you can reach your hand into the grinder
to chop up scrap. You learn that exhaustion vanishes
when eastern light flickers through the grimy windows.
 
"Midnight Shift at Quality Plastics" by Pamela R. Anderson from Common Threads 2020. Ed. Steve Abbott. Ohio Poetry Association Press. 2020. Used by permission of the author.  
 
Bio
Pamela R. Anderson is a traveler, blues music lover, yoga practitioner, and former public radio fundraiser who grew up in Northeast Ohio’s Steel Valley. Her chapbook—Just the Girls—was published by The Poetry Box in 2020. In 2021, two more of her poetry chapbooks will be published: Widow Maker (Finishing Line Press) and The Galloping Garbage Truck (Kelsay Books). Much of her writing focuses on the Holocaust, reflecting her father’s service as a WWII paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. Pam’s poetry has appeared in JennyMag, Atticus Review, Whurk, Coffin Bell, and elsewhere; she is a graduate of the Northeast Ohio MFA Program. Find her on Twitter: @prandersonpoet. Her website is https://www.pamelaranderson.org/

Write a Poem

Write a translitic. Find a poem written in a language you do not know and rewrite it as what it sounds like to you. Then take your draft and revise it into a new poem all your own. It should not be a translation.
 
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Comments
Debbie West
I worked Midnight shift at Quality Plastics in Champion
5/25/2021 6:50:29 AM

Tim Richards
I was there with you, on 3rd shift at McDonald Mills in Gerrard, OH. Terrific poem. Thanks for sharing.
4/20/2021 10:39:05 AM

Susan O.
Pamela Anderson your words -this poem - evoked long ago-nearly 50!- memories of my 6 months as a plastic factory worker, truly . Real life, real work.
4/19/2021 9:53:32 PM

Sierra Polsinelli
From Thor Schack p 47. Mens Livsgulder odes
(my paternal grandfather – I only had the poem in Danish)

The God of men is old
Older than can be fathomed.
He lives in their bodies
and resides in their bones.

If they break with Him
They stand as villains
Stubborn and unrepentant.
They try to hid their misdeeds
so He will not see.

As time is lost
their greatness fades.
At the last, all they had
was bitter dregs.
4/19/2021 6:53:22 PM

Tovli
Gina T.
I liked your poem: "No Guarantee". I like O. Nimigean too. Romanian was our mother's native language, but the family is Moldovan--Moldovan language is also Romanian. It's a great poetry language. I thought this was a great line: "zigzagging light insanely
as simply as holding
the hind leg of a reclining fume."
4/19/2021 2:16:14 PM

Tovli
Leaving A Piece Behind

Poem Day 19: Write a translitic (inspired by poetry written in Lithuanian)

My flat hand opens;
then an elder’s eyes.
Fill it all. My broken saddle-shoes with
cracked white leather, meant for endless travel
or vacant pockets, threads to nowhere;
precious methods of handing out the air
are making babies lonely.

Then my sweater;
a colorful, political hue with long, outdated, tapered sleeves,
flies away. Let it go, assure peacefulness, talent and above all, agreement.

I miss pink candles and tinted kerosene.
Perhaps it will all show up some day, near the Daucha
along with some forgotten, reckless poem.

Moveable columns of sand toppled Granny’s clothes-line.
Somethings no longer belong, they’ve lost purpose.
They have no doors to pester, to assault using bare knuckles.
That’s when shelves are relined and value increases.

My socks twist, a jacket from grade school shows up;
a little black skirt, with pleats;
a card pretending to remember my eleventh birthday.

It’s a visual bouquet: truth, that is--all organized, cataloged
for “Spring-garden”, or “Winter-store”.
It’s good to know there’ll be no stain,
nothing unused once you’re gone.
Piles of leaves, un-raked, closing in on decay,
retain worth as long as they’re hollow and acknowledge space.

Face it, traces matter: I am paper, books; newsprint;
cream-colored crumbs saved inside pastel tissues;
a grand-mother face; many smiles and delicate stories;
houses with little doors and big windows;
hints of what I looked like, who I was, what I turned into;
finely sketched outlines of those I surprised in secret ways.

When night-time threatens, there’s always opportunity,
even though day-light drags on.
Tonight, for example, snow is predicted.
Everyone prepares:
my books, the paper, the artist’s need to celebrate;
pairs of empty shoes, dark eyes, open hands
and tiny, green-tipped matches.

Candle and kerosene kiss; an oily, sultry embrace.

No one prays. No one separates,
yet many pieces, all at once,
empty into the sky…
water-fall smoke,
chips of darkened ash
splashing memories everywhere,

just everywhere.

(c) Tovli 2021
4/19/2021 2:04:17 PM

Gina T.
I looed at a Romanian poems by O. Nimigean in Romanian and wrote this translitic poem.

No guarantee

I guarantee you nothing, nothing
initially tried before or coming
into focus, not that you’ll
come with me, an aerial heart
that lunges inland into a soup
bowl without landing (or
fights politely, arm wrestling
to show acumen).

Focus after: Not your green eyes,
not with a veil but with an ardor
without solidarity or growth,
an ardor combustible,
fantastical, provocative,
metamorphosing grotesquely
like a schizophrenic
statue steeling to fix itself
but zigzagging light insanely
as simply as holding
the hind leg of a reclining fume.

Yes, mercurial and mutually
without gratitude, nothing
but shit intercedes, binding
you with no guarantee.
Nothing, nothing composed
of two beings.
4/19/2021 12:55:05 PM

Maureen
Great poem, both for people who want to have an understanding of working a night shift in a factory and two, for people who can relate due to their own experience
4/19/2021 12:17:00 PM

Laura Kennelly
Loved this! Could really relate even though I've not worked that job. If I weren't so lazy, I'd write one about being a new mom--similar stresses.
4/19/2021 12:10:16 PM

Bradford M
This was a perfect poem in my opinion
4/19/2021 11:34:10 AM

Aidan
Great poem, i loved how you told every detail
4/19/2021 11:33:50 AM

Lila H
I really enjoyed the poem the you wrote! I was thinking about my grandpa who worked as a wood worker when he was younger while I was reading this poem. How do you connect with the person who worked the midnight shift?
4/19/2021 11:33:20 AM

Aidan DS
This is a very good poem
4/19/2021 11:32:50 AM

Brendan Ravin
I like the poem but I am wondering who is this poem is about. Is it about you are someone you know or just from a point of view of a random person?
4/19/2021 11:32:23 AM

Taylor H
Hi, I liked your poem. I was wondering what gave you the idea to write about someone working a night shift at a plastic factory?
4/19/2021 11:31:59 AM

Anne K
This poem’s emotion seems to be solemn. I really liked how this poem told a story, and how I can visualize it.
4/19/2021 11:31:39 AM

Mia K
Great poem, I loved the details!
4/19/2021 11:31:33 AM

Diana G.
I really liked this poem because it felt very real. It wasn’t a far fetched fantasy that people often write, it’s a very realistic scenario that I’d bet many people can relate to in their own lives.
4/19/2021 11:31:03 AM

Simmon
“ You learn solitude when you run a press
8 hours a day. You learn to throw flat cardboard
onto the cement floor to cushion throbbing feet.
You learn to doze by the time clock, sleeping
through 8 minutes of a 10-minute break.” It kind of reminds me of coming home from school and being tired, but when you wake up the next day your not as tired.
4/19/2021 11:30:30 AM

Matthew
Cool
4/19/2021 11:29:46 AM

Chase
I liked it
4/19/2021 11:29:05 AM

Emily C
It was very descriptive and I could picture the factory and the feelings going through the person’s head.
4/19/2021 11:29:04 AM

Mark B
Pam, I thought of your dad during this poem and imagined him coming home early in he morning to his three girl.
4/19/2021 11:26:20 AM

Paddy Raghunathan
Fine poem.
4/19/2021 11:19:48 AM

Elizabeth Klanac
Wonderful and tense poetry. I too lived that life, ran a press, yanked at pallet jacks weighing 100’s and 100’s of pounds, and the cutter... where I sliced at hours those thick blocks of enamel paper... All the while, the metronome, logging long hours in my head while the work tore my body to shreds...

I sacrificed my body, but not my mind. My mind was the fertile soil of hope.
Yes, me too.
4/19/2021 11:05:57 AM

Bill Ritz
Excellent, Pamela. I could even smell the place as I read your words.
4/19/2021 10:37:05 AM

Mary M Chadbourne
Your poem spans the shift and all your human accommodations to "making a living." Those vivid images, your fixed form of four five-line stanzas mirror your discipline. I can hear you inhale the light and the new day. Wonderful piece.
4/19/2021 10:27:58 AM

Barbara A Sabol
So good! The poet takes us right into that factory, another world. The voice is so credible. Well done!
4/19/2021 10:11:54 AM

Jan
Very well done. I could picture working in the plastics factory, feeling the tedium and exhaustion.
4/19/2021 9:52:31 AM

Cathy Barber
So much tension in this poem! The knife and razor blade, the wasp, reaching into the press. Even the clock and the sun cause a certain unease. Well done.
4/19/2021 9:47:38 AM



READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.