Carnations On The Roof

He worked setting tools for a multi-purpose punch
In a shop that made holes in steel plates
He could hear himself think through a fifty minute lunch
Of the kids, gas and stoppages, the upkeep and the rates
While he talked about Everton and Chelsea with his mates

With gauge and micrometer, with level and with rule
While chuck and punch were pulsing like a drum
He checked the finished product like a master after school
The slugs looked like money and the cutting-oil like scum
And to talk with a machinist he made signals like the dumb

   Though he had no great gifts of personality or mind
   He was generally respected, and the proof
   Was a line of hired Humbers tagging quietly behind
   A fat Austin Princess with carnations on the roof

Forty years of metal tend to get into your skin
The surest coin you take home from your wage
The green cleaning-jelly only goes to rub it in
And that glitter in the wrinkle of your knuckle shows your age
Began when the dignity of work was still the rage

He was used and discarded in a game he didn't own
But when the moment of destruction came
He showed that a working man is more than flesh and bone
The hands on his chest flared more brightly than his name
For a technicolor second as he rolled into the flame

   Though he had no great gifts of personality or mind
   He was generally respected, and the proof
   Was a line of hired Humbers tagging quietly behind
   A fat Austin Princess with carnations on the roof 

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