Year of Award
Thesis - Campus Access Only
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Creative Writing (Poetry)
Other Degree Name/Area of Focus
Department or School/College
Chris Dombrowski, Tobin Miller Shearer
Poetry, Non-Fiction, Corrosion, Masculinity, Addiction, Christianity
University of Montana
Nonfiction | Poetry
Working as a corrosion engineer, I’ve followed oil pipelines across mountain ranges in Alaska and barren fields in Wyoming; clambered through dirty power plants and petrochemical facilities from rural Montana to North Dakota; surveyed US military fuel assets scattered across sweltering Pacific islands. Thirteen years spent fighting the slow, inevitable decay of iron and steel and concrete. To keep every infrastructure solid, every machine running, takes hard and often hidden work. And in the end, corrosion is never eliminated, only mitigated.
Corrosion may be called ‘the cancer of metal’, but its decay can metastasize within all things: within multi-billion dollar international corporations and the Evangelical Christian church, within families, and within myself. These too are machines—not in their inhumanity, but in their power and motion and complexity, in their constant need for careful maintenance at the hands of those who know them best. When I have taken them for granted or cowered from the work and responsibility of their upkeep, I have felt the juddering grind of total breakdown.
This thesis is a creative, hybrid-genre piece that combines non-fiction memoir and poetry to explore some of the machines that torque and thunder inside my own life: religion, masculinity, addiction, family, and my work in the oil & gas industry. It is meant as neither a condemnation nor a glorification of any of them, but rather a reckoning with their realities and demands. I am no more a victim of them than I am complicit in their failings. My desire is that this text is corrosion’s witness, one that is not divorced from the hard truths of its costs and causes: the greed and extraction, the exhaustion and fear—but also too, the deep camaraderie and beauty and meaning found in its prevention. If the labor of life is to maintain the things we love, then let there by joy and grace in this grueling work, in all its long days and early mornings. And when joy is scarce, let there be strong coffee and sturdy boots that fit just right. Coal dust under fingernails, an old song sung low, and another pair of hands, reaching next to your own –bearing upwards– right when you need them most.
Hernberg, Mark, "AND THE MACHINE CONTINUES WITHOUT PAUSE" (2023). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 12150.
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© Copyright 2023 Mark Hernberg