They are coming out of the factory walls—
those who might like to take her upright fan.
Hard young women winging through the hanging
strips, the rubber talons moving on conveyors.
And not all black women, but the one who
takes hold of it, claiming its positioning
in the air-freighted heat—she’s black.
And at least as fierce as my mother is,
or so my mother tells the story everafter.
Since she is from Neon, Kentucky, Nettie,
my divorced mother, the n-word starts flying.
And they set a time to meet to settle things.
After the shift. In the Inland parking lot.
And the other women show up to witness
the fireworks of a pissed-off Womanhood
this scorching August, their vulturey heads
bobbing as if to say Fuck her up! and Show her
who’s boss! to the American capitalist enterprise.
Which every night feeds on fear of depredation
until the sun unleashes its talons of gold and
red then even more gold, spiking morning
machine noises with pugilistic talk and
the threat of worse. My abandoned mother
kept the fan and she kept it blowing its fixed
or oscillating breezes her way that summer.
She had the job because ex-brother-in-law
William “Big Bill” Hensley was president
of the United Autos Workers Local 696—
Bill adored Mother, and called her Nettie
Dolores whenever he stopped by the house,
a brick 3-bedroom house my father left her
to pay for. And so she didn’t have to fight,
didn’t have to call the other woman names
and eventually reach in and get her a handful
of afro, though she would have. Instead, Nettie
Potter Bentley said she would requisition two fans.
One to blow away constant sweat from having
to cut and hang and send on the rubber strips
for 1964’s General Motors cars and trucks.
One to blow away the heat of resentment.
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