Working Hurt
by Carol Alexander

We’re working hurt these days: a nation stumble-bumming:
throwing clumsy punches, riding rails to the flatlands,
roasting our innards over ashcan fires, glaring back at the late day sun:

What day’s doings bed us down with vermin, close our shutters,
siphon off the joys? The highway jam, jaws of life, charred limbs
extracted from suicide’s wreck: it wasn’t this they spoke of back

when milk money jingled in our smocks, when fond voices
stroked the future’s ears, tamed down to a purring thing. Pity:
in our history books, the Apple Annie’s tendered fruit

some fruit of the original sin, thing-to-never-come again,
come anyhow, come slamming like the fighter’s fist on flesh
and cracking bone, spine of country, ridge of great blue mountains

and red haze on the eyelids, the pit of fury in the gut,
sucker punched, the idled men laid low at the factory gate
whose empty homes lie paper punched and torn

then down to the pit again, the dozy heart finding earth
and then the nothing, and the nothing left behind:
bankers’ hours come for us, at last, at last.

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