Saturday Poem

From Be a Recorder

—after Pedro Pietri’s “Puerto Rican Obituary”

they work their fingers
to the soul their bones
to their marrow
they toil in blankness
inside the dead yellow
rectangle of warehouse
windows work fingers
to knots of fires
the young the ancients
the boneless the broken
the warehouse does too
to the bone of the good
bones of the building
every splinter spoken for
she works to the centrifuge
of time the calendar a thorn
into the sole dollar of working
without pause work their mortal
coils into frayed threads until
just tatter they worked their bones
to the soul until there was no
soul left to send worked until
they were dead gone
to heaven or back home
for the dream to have USA
without USA to export
USA to the parts under
the leather sole of the boss
they work in dreams of working
under less than ideal conditions
instead of just not ideal
conditions work for the
shrinking pension and never
dental for the illusion
of the doctor medicating them
for work-related disease
until they die leaving no empire
only more dreams that their babies
should work less who instead
work more for less
so they continue to work
for them and their kin
they work balloon payment
in the form of a heart attack
if only that’ll be me someday
the hopeless worker said on
the thirteenth of never
hollering into the canyon
of perpetual time
four bankruptcies later
three-fifths into a life
that she had planned
on expecting happiness
in any form it took
excluding the knock-off
cubed life she lived in debt
working to the millionth
of the cent her body cost
the machine’s owner
Yolanda Berta Zoila
Chavela Lucia Esperanza
Naya Carmela Celia Rocio
once worked here
their work disappearing
into dream-emptied pockets
into the landfill of work
the work to make their bodies
into love for our own

by Carmen Giménez Smith.
from Be a Recorder