The Lumper

. . . who lifts the harvest from the hold

More than ten tons of tough shoveling
awaited, slopping the guts of the dragger’s
hull as he eased his stiff spine down
the slime-crusted ladder
and shook out the ice from his hair
too late, his mind all frozen and fixed
on this job that he knew he must hate
as all work must be hated which does not
clutch the heart or what passes for heart
in the sweat of six dollars an hour.
Straining to breathe in the ebb tide stink,
he raked down a long mountain range of squid,
raked vast populations of undersea nations,
writhing and bitter, their tentacles clinging
to life and each other as all things living
must do whether time to or not,
and so he forgot his connections to land
and the meaninglessness of his dreams
and crossed once more to the ancient place
where the billions below serve the billions above
and fill up the bellies and fill them again
as the sun filters into the holds of all ships
and frames in a rough square each lumper,
each squid and the hard edge of everything’s hunger.