Hugh Behm-Steinberg

In Which I Get a Job as a Power Trowel Replacement

My legs are so unemployed they rattle when I walk, so the employment office calls. It doesn’t matter that I’m busy thinking, that I’ve got this novel I’m working on. “We’re cutting you off,” they say, “you can think on someone else’s time.”

I’m put to work smoothing cement. Instead of being handed a machine, the robots pick me up and put me down in harness, in between I dance nonstop. There’s a lot of us doing this; there’s so many trip hazards in this world.

If I think about it it’s terrifying, because everything’s so smooth now, and instead of working on my novel I’m stuck wondering how this all came to be. All the people that must be needed to make everything smooth, all the novels it cost – no one encountering obstacles as they in turn are picked up and put down to go to work.

At the end of each day they let us go and we wobble. The lucky among us moonlight as jackhammers, carving great books on the terrible flatness of this city.


Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press), as well as three Dusie chapbooks: Sorcery, Good Morning! and The Sound of Music. He’s a shop steward in the Adjunct Faculty Union/SEIU 1021 at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where for ten years he edited the journal Eleven Eleven.

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