Sunday, September 15, 2019

Labor Is the Millstone that Grinds One Back Into His Mother, Dust.

I have seen all the works
that are done under the sun;
and, behold, all is vanity
and vexation of spirit.
     Ecclesiastes 1:14

The wages of dying is love.
     Galway Kinnell


Work shapes a man's hands
and weathers his face
into a cracked candle.

Diversionsbedding women,
beating men, indulgent eating
or drinking gin
are time wastes
between tying one's boots
and bowing back
to work. When he leaves
lusting, he returns
the same man, if colder.

The toll of toil only equals
its profits, but one's fortified
by the fire of its kiln
and stands ill composed without it.

Life is empty and vain,
but work keeps death at bay.

If one's lucky, the tedium
of living reaps knowledge,
though knowledge heaps
silos of sorrow,
but wisdom relieves
one of madness.


Look at the street
sweeper. She's oblivious
of all else, and one-by-one,
flicks the butts
into the pan. A passerby
grazes her broom. She's
not startled. She turns
away from the glare off
the street puddle to better
focus on the litter.


And now this bartender.
He grabs the long-
stemmed glass, overhead,
and thumbs the wine
bottle over it; snatches
the high-ball tumbler
behind his knee and shovels
the ice. In a pint glass,
he taps Guinness shy
enough of the top
for the foam to rise. Patrons
call for him, nailing orders
with fists to the bar. They’re
ignored. The pallid cleavage
and red noses tip toward him
his task obscures them.
The spirits and sweat rise
from the wood. The thunder
guitaring from the speakers
cloaks the crowd. Skirts
and collared shirts, high-heels,
and wet beards, soiled dollars,
broken throats, ashen faces,
and the serene street
lights outside the ever
opening door are not
even whispers to himhe
who serves his duty
more than them.


The mother's an exception.
A life is her occupation.
Her baby wails from morning
till well past the gloaming, and teethes
her nipples purple. Her single
child tries her wild
with love, pain, and worry
that plasters her flatly
against the barrier of sanity.
While weeping over the soiled
clothes she pours into the washer,
a grease streaked wisp of hair
sticks in her mouth.
Unlike the others she feels
for only her daughter.
Though she, like them, sees
nothing while in motion
now the laundry spins
her chest is tight,
her mind is numb,
she only wakes to the room
when she tastes salt on her
lips. She wipes her eyes
and brow, and the wailing returns.

What a piece of work
is woman... how express 
and admirable?
In action, how like an angel?


  1. Life is empty and vain,
    but work keeps death at bay.

    Perhaps some lives...