Two dancers

Behind the podium
the exec was talking,
his seminar topic
the human operator
in the age of automation:
suddenly embodying
the cautionary tale
of a worker imagining herself
in a factory movie,
he broke into dance
like the onset of palsy:
hips swaying, reaching arms
high and low for imaginary boxes,
drunk as Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth
as the conveyor belt accelerates.
Outside the ergonomic safety zone
is a dance of repetitive stress,
reportable injuries,
and painkillers. Better to glide
like a cuckoo bird out of a clock,
move from one station to the next,
make rate, let your metrics
be neither too high nor too low.

In the corner of the robot factory
the table-top models, all three-wristed arms,
were going through their moves:
they swiveled up each length of arm
in order till the last segment aligned
and made the arms into a V
held aloft–a pop-and-lock routine,
or Bollywood flourish,
alongside twenty others
all within spec.

Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images