The Forklift Driver

Wei was a flyweight equestrian
With an impressively hefty mount.
A vaudevillian on a forklift truck,
He juggled pallets, crates and machinery
Like picking a riff to Johnny B Goode.
With an affirmative “yes, can do”,
He could bring you anything from anywhere
In little to no time at all.

Although Wei had dented not a bumper,
Nor had he nicked anybody,
Health & Safety should have roasted him
For a hundred million occasions:
For instance, you should run away quickly,
If you heard Wei honking out a siren,
For he would drift the 3-tonne Hyundai
As though rallying her motorsport sister.

But, there once was an exception
To Wei’s perpetual lead-foot hurry,
Which was when he drove by the packing station,
Where his heart somehow betrayed
His hefty Hyundai baby
And crawled itself to one packing lady,
Who then wrapped it and strapped it unknowingly,
Before packing it away to who-knows-where.

From a poor town down in rural Guangxi,
Tiny Wei was neither handsome nor hunky,
While she’s a tall northern lassie
Who spoke a Mercurian language
From 1,056 miles away;
Clearly, the odds were a hundred to one against him.
Still, with a little patience and “yes, can do”,
Blimey, his dream did really come true!

Even though her parents did not approve,
The packing lady told him “yes, I do”
And sent the forklift driver over the moon.
While they both put on a bit of weight too soon—
His from his bliss, and hers from her bump—
Wei sank quickly back into reality:
What was he but a rustic from Guangxi,
With little money, and little guanxi?

Mrs Wei’s worries grew like her belly,
But he reassured her with a “yes, can do”.
Then, on top of his gruelling 12-hour duty,
Wei moonlighted as a night-shift cabby.
Before long, his Hyundai blared an angrier honk,
And its fiery drift mark was hardly droll.
An overworked Wei lost his new-gained weight,
Appearing a little paler, and a lot more morose.

A pricey caesarean delivered their girl.
Thankfully, her face was prettier than Wei’s,
Which I glimpsed before her mum was confined
For a month of postnatal recovery.
What happened next I didn’t know exactly,
But, with her husband working two jobs straight,
I supposed the new mother didn’t take it well,
Or a spell of baby blues got the better of her.

One day after work,
Wei was shocked to find
His baby girl wailing, alone in the flat:
His packing lady had packed up and left!
She didn’t pick up her phone
And was nowhere to be found.
It was a sheer nightmare
For three days and a half.

But the nightmare did not end there,
For his mother-in-law rang and said,
“She won’t talk to you ever again.”
“I take it she is safe,” responded Wei.
“What have I done wrong now?”
“There’s nothing you can do,” she sneered.
“But you can keep the baby, because
I’m marrying her off to someone else.”

Someone with more money, and more guanxi—
He could hear the unspoken truth
Behind the busy tone of the hung-up phone.
Feeling all was lost, Wei consulted his boss.
And the manager didn’t waste him a second.
“What are you waiting for?” he cried,
Blaring louder than the forklift’s honk,
“Go and bring her back, right now!”

With the most uncertain “yes, can do”,
Wei packed a suitcase and a nappy sack,
And strapped the baby to his back.
He poured out his savings for the long journey
And boarded the first train towards destiny.

***

When he and the baby returned in a week,
Immediately we knew,
For once, this load was too much to fork or to lift,
As Wei sniffly uttered to us, “No, can’t do.”

 

Colin Lee

colin-lee-small

After Twinkle and Old Mai, this is my third entry to this month’s special collection, provisionally titled Sweatshop Stories. The featured pictures for this series are all snapped in our factory in order to accompany these real-life tales of real people I have worked with. Today’s image is Wei’s tool of the trade; apparently, the old girl has endured some unflattering history, much like her jockey.

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20 thoughts on “The Forklift Driver

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    1. Thanks, Jilly. And my wife couldn’t begin her day without an energetic rumble about how much she hated this writing. (Your wife is always right, right?) I don’t think this is among my best, and frankly it’s quite obese with the added flesh, but still it’s a tale in the back of my mind that’s always wanted a chance of telling. And, perhaps, there’s even a subconscious prompting to write about these chaps with runaway brides or widowhood experience. Hm … I’m a little confused.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Colin — very fun. Cool snapshot poem/story.
    I loved it. Sadness and Comedy, how did you do that.
    I use to drive a forklift too, but my misfortune stopped there, poor man.
    Before I forget, “machinary” –> ? machinery
    Hey, you should consider joining us at Feedback Poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sabio. Fixed right away. All thanks to the frankness of a kind German (correct me if I’m wrong again)! Alright, I’m following your new page. Kindly allow me to just stick around and suck up the wisdom from you folks while in a season of limited capability to commit. It’s interesting that your page emphasises the accessibility of poetry, because, on this very morning, my wife just complained to me, “Why would people wanna read such a long piece of writing about your colleague? If you want the truth, I personally don’t find it at all interesting … and even felt frustrated reading it after a few lines … Your style of writing is so difficult to understand.” The medicine coming from one’s spouse does have a high dose of toxicity. Perhaps I can use some tips from friendly poets who know the craft (and its pains). 🙂

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      1. 1. Your welcome Colin — some folks would scream “poetic license” or “I was pushing the reader” or such. So glad it was an honest mistake. Und nein, Ich bin nicht Deutsch. 我是美国人。

        2. So glad you joined in. Lurk all you wish, jump in when you wish. Frank feedback is always coveted.

        3. Yes, as you hinted, your wife is right again. I almost turned away from length. But, I have lived in China, as you know, and the story is well told. And I love snap shot of real people, love them. But the style was not hard to understand, and I hate hard-to-understand poetry. But, your wife is right. Pray tell — is she Chinese, or worse, from Shanghai? LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 1. I’m so sorry. For some reason, you’ve always struck me as European. I don’t know why.

        2. Thank you!

        3. One’s wife is always right. Ha! Ethnically a Cantonese/Hakka, but my wife was born and raised a British — a native speaker who writes professionally and hands me grammatical corrections like tissue papers. But, no, she doesn’t read much poetry. On the contrary, I’m one eighth Suzhounese — close enough to Shanghai. Lol

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  2. A story wonderfully told Colin and how sad the close.
    I googled guanxi so now understand. Tis a pity that our worth is sometimes based on face and honour (as deemed by others) as all of us – probably more accurately, most of us – have our own intrinsic value…
    Anna :o]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you, Anna. And I hope in time we’ll learn to look at things through the clearer lenses of sensible values. Thank you for reading into the meanings of my lengthy story. Truly appreciated.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy poem, Bjorn. It’s probably one of the longest posts I’ve written. In a society with too many twisted mindsets and values, some of the things that my colleagues have endured were so incredibly movie-like I must emphasise they were real. And, no doubt, Wei’s is a story that I’ve always wanted to tell.

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