Summer Job / John Stupp


poems by

John Stupp

WINNER of the 2017 Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest

ISBN: 978-1-59948-689-5, 44 pages, $12

Release/ship date: August 21, 2018


John Stupp holds academic degrees from Notre Dame University, The University of British Columbia and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. From 1967-1970 he worked every summer in the Ford Motor Engine Foundry in Cleveland, Ohio while going to college. Since then he has lived and worked in various states as a jazz musician, university instructor, taxi driver, radio news writer, waiter, and paralegal. John is the author of two full-length poetry collections Advice from the Bed of a Friend (Main Street Rag, 2015) and Pawleys Island (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and spends his spare time playing with his dog Buster and fishing in South Carolina.

In Summer Job, John Stupp takes us…before the sacred throne/of Henry Ford…into the foundry where the punch of working-class language thrills: millwrights, tinsmith, shift whistle. With short lines humming like a running engine, Stupp strips down to the damage: to the lift and stack/lift and stack…the dirty air from the engine lines…to the heart of it: …how many chests were cut open/and put back/without all the parts? These tough poems commandeer the beauty/horror of the production line. Buy this book! —Jan Beatty


In Summer Job, John Stupp transports us inside a Cleveland auto plant, full of sweat, metal, and a little laughter. This is a world where the working-class reigns supreme: we’re introduced to Bob the bowling left hander, Helmut the German storm trooper thief, KFC loving Felix, and the unnamed welders and foremen. In these striking, heartfelt poems, work is the angel that saves us, clocking us in and out, covering us with its “dirty wings.” —Kayla Sargeson


With a speaker whose voice is sturdy as steel cable, the poems in Summer Job are machined with great precision. The images offer a unique look at what lies between the conveyor, the furnace and the pouring ladles to reveal the distinct lives of the characters operating them. Summer Job is an engine humming with humanity. —Lisa Alexander

What Henry Ford Said

after Natalie Shapero


Henry Ford said
machines wreck themselves
and somebody wrote that down—
around the clock we worked
as summer help to undo
what union men created from September to May
foremen screamed whistles blew
millwrights electricians tinsmiths
came running
as production lines sputtered
and the plant went silent
we were city boys herding sheep by mistake
our ears buzzing
they had to catch us before wolves found the missing engine blocks
alone in a high pasture
looking for a place to rest



Foundry Prayer


If you work by
the annealing furnace
where the foreman can see you
I will pray for you
if you take salt pills over and over
and watch the temperature rise from 90 degrees to 125
at night
that can blow your mind even in August
I will pray for you—
so much salt can’t be good
but you don’t know better in ‘68
your heart hasn’t exploded yet
your blood vessels haven’t started pumping
like a production line
but you do know
your saliva feels like trash thrown on the floor
of a sand castle
that deer might lick for the rest of your life
and shit on without caring
that’s sad
what woman wants that on her tongue—
I will pray for you
but nothing I say will make it better





Pig iron scrap limestone and coke
went into the melting furnace at Ford
and cooked until ladles poured the hot soup
into casting molds over and over all day every day—
in the summer
the heat pounded you like a fist
and sparks bounced around like fireworks
I remember my grade school teacher
Sister Edward Marie
who said sanctifying grace
was God filling you inside
like a an engine block
then sending you on a conveyor
150 blocks an hour
to the cleaning room
to be ground smooth
your edges rasped by machines
then shaped and assembled for a drive
like a Thunderbird through hell—
God has his foot to the floor
she used to say
but your hands are on the wheel

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