Mac - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Mac

Mac peered over his machine.

His frantic foreman missed

the wiser-than-you’ll-ever-be

smile.

 

Mac was never disrespectful.

But nobody messed with

Shop Steward Billy McGuire,

WWII U.S. Army

Veteran.

 

I caught the big guy’s dry smile myself,

radical know-it-all I was

Back in ’73.

 

But Mac was never, ever mean.

 

Truth be known,

big guy had a streak of kindness

running straight down his broad back.

One of those hard-soft, Golden Rule,

“bless-his-heart” folk,

a gravel-voiced shaman,

fix’in to heal even the shop’s

most tenacious fools.

 

Mac wasn’t like other mill rats,

gnawing only on the sports page

as their machines traversed,

then the racing sheet,

calling their bookies,

forsaking the Baltimore Sun

for grease and oil.

 

No, Mac revered the whole paper,

 

even hovered over the editorial page,

that smile leaving every swing’in dick

guessing what he was thinking

‘bout the day’s news,

‘bout damned near anything at all.

 

Why did this sage of the shop floor

spare me, the Jewish radical,

my dose of derision or contempt?

 

When given their choice,

why did black men,

fresh arrivals,

integrating the “white-man’s” shop,

pick Mac to learn from?

 

One scorching shift,

amid grease and oil,

frantic foremen,

the daily news,

Mac swapped out his smile,

gently pried the lid off his secret,

a confidence,

brutal,

delicate,

 

Unfathomable.

 

“My unit liberated Buchenwald.”


About the author

Len Shindel

Len Shindel began working at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant in 1973, where he was a union activist and elected representative in local unions of the United Steelworkers, frequently publishing newsletters about issues confronting his co-workers. His nonfiction and poetry have been published in the “Other Voices” section of the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Pearl, The Mill Hunk Herald, Pig Iron, Labor Notes and other publications. After leaving Sparrows Point in 2002, Shindel, a White Marsh resident and grandfather of seven, began working as a communication specialist for an international union based in Washington, D.C. The International Labor Communications Association frequently rewarded his writing. He retired in 2016. Today he spends most of his time in Garrett County, writing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking, fly-fishing and fighting for a more peaceful, sustainable and safe world for his seven grandchildren. Contact the author.
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