Make Them Look Alive

(This is a work poem. I owned a printing company, and “Make Them Look Alive” is based, somewhat loosely, on a pressroom accident. The artwork is by Judy Kirpich, who created this quilt based on the “H” in the company’s name, at a time when I was selling the company. The broken corner of the “H” looks to me as if it might have been caught in a press.)

Make them look alive,
said the customer.

All day long the cylinders roll −
sheets of butterflies,
mountains of monarchs and tigertails

Later we lock up slowly,
reluctant to leave
the butterflies behind

The men linger, watch
me walk to my car, protective

The next morning, they
meet me at the door −
The new guy caught his hand in the press.
He’s at the emergency room.
We rush back to the stilled machine.
I touch the terrible smashing cylinder.
A damp envelope is thrust into my hand −
They need this.

Then a mad
dash to the hospital.
In my lap I cradle
the almost weightless fingertips
of someone I barely know.
I fear they will fly out the open window

© Katherine Gekker 1996

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2 Responses to Make Them Look Alive

  1. slpmartin says:

    Oh my…what a story in poem…I could feel a sense of panic at the end…thanks for sharing your verse.

  2. Sarah Nelson says:

    Katie, there are so many layers of meaning and possible other meanings in this poem.
    I have been pondering these meanings ever since i read the poem yesterday
    Even the quilt has layers, about the accident, about your work, about the loss of your
    company. i.e the warm comfort of the quilt has been torn.
    There is also such dramatic apposition between the”terrible smashing cylinder” and
    the “stilled machine” and between flying “sheets of butterflies”and “almost weightless fingertips” cradled in your lap. There is so much emotion elicited in these few lines.

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