local_library The Last Coder

by Brandon Lafving

Published in Issue No. 220 ~ September, 2015

Paper still serves a purpose, she thinks:

it can be made into origami.

And on her screen an email chimes

from the factory in Akron. Akron,


where machinists, engineers, and yellow

hard hats shouted above the gears.

These cannot be restored

to what they were when her computer


began to tabulate their tasks for them,

to free their time under its cold gaze.

Now the still, small war for her mind

is sourced out of her depth and lost.


It is not the factory that she thinks about;

it is that her thoughts, sold off

and refurnished with transistors,

now know a brighter, unitary career


that bores and erodes

and will come to an end also.

The glinting copper lying in heaps already,

the sun steady and glaring,


the workers who crowd the streets

(because of her value-add machine)

watched the nicks and blood of their experience

thread into one internal process.


Ruthless and precise digital thought.

Even now, the process improvement continues

ticking toward the grand fantasy:

a world without workers.


The now-isolated plant

where they dragged engineers

off for exit interviews

now hums and waits for her


for the impression of her thumb

to leave its trace in oil on the plate

sinuous as the rosetting on a jungle cat

the same thumb for a newer, sleeker system


That will disrupt the industry

with cheaper, better products

held in sweaty hands and shown off

by nurse practitioners and politicians.

You do not see what she sees

behind the empty factory floor:

her small team and the terminal

updated yet antiquated, the automata


operating from her i/o interface

to weld without light

and an undying face

put upon everything.

The machinists gone out searching

far for the rest of their lives

and security no nearer

but still in sight, and the only way.