Back when the Mixpanel lit club read East of Eden (which is amazingly good, by the way), we got to the part where Adam is in the Army —
Adam spent his next five years doing the things an army uses to keep its men from going insane — endless polishing of metal and leather, parade and drill and escort, ceremony of bugle and flag, a ballet of business for men who aren’t doing anything
— and it reminded me of Henry Reed’s 1942 poem “Naming of Parts”:
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.
The full poem, annotated, is here; it includes an annotation explaining what exactly is a “piling swivel” and why the men have in this case not got one.