Lyrical Somerville – August 21

On August 21, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


In college we receive an education, as well as on the job. Professor Bill Harney of Endicott College remembers with his poem ” Learning on the Job.”

Bill Harney

Bill Harney








Learning on the Job

We made cans there,
A few college kids, summer help, working alongside blacks and poor whites
In a dying business.  We made jokes and helped each other on the floor
But at lunch everyone sat with their own kind
And groused about everyone else.
Almost all the work we did was sent back to be redone.  The equipment
Was decades old and the trouble-shooters on the machinery
Were old retirees and anyone they could get.  The company
Had only one rule: “no unauthorized repairs.”
Their specialists stuck screw drivers in live sockets
Or forgot allen wrenches in drill presses
Then blamed the black operators
But never got the lines up and running
Once they were down.  Sidney Swoopes
Was taught by life and taught me in
Whispered, rhythmic wisdom
That every little contempt the bosses show you
Is a reason for a worker to pull back, slow down
Without any change you could see, that was the
Beauty of giving as good as you get, he said.

– Bill Harney


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