The Butter Factory - Poem by Les Murray
It was built of things that must not mix:
paint, cream, and water, fire and dusty oil.
You heard the water dreaming in its large
kneed pipes, up from the weir. And the cordwood
our fathers cut for the furnace stood in walls
like the sleeper-stacks of a continental railway.
The cream arrived in lorried tides; its procession
crossed a platform of workers' stagecraft: Come here
Friday-Legs! Or I'll feel your hernia--
Overalled in milk's colour, men moved the heart of milk,
separated into thousands, along a roller track--Trucks?
That one of mine, son, it pulls like a sixteen-year-old--
to the tester who broached the can lids, causing fat tears,
who tasted, dipped and did his thin stoppered chemistry
on our labour, as the empties chattered downstage and fumed.
Under the high roof, black-crusted and stainless steels
were walled apart: black romped with leather belts
but paddlewheels sailed the silvery vats where muscles
of the one deep cream were exercised to a bullion
to be blocked in paper. And between waves of delivery
the men trod on water, hosing the rainbows of a shift.
It was damp April even at Christmas round every
margin of the factory. Also it opened the mouth
to see tackles on glibbed gravel, and the mossed char louvres
of the ice-plant's timber tower streaming with
heavy rain all day, above the droughty paddocks
of the totem cows round whom our lives were dancing.
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