Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"The Workers"

they laugh continually
even when
a board falls down
and destroys a face
or distorts a
body
they continue to
laugh,
when the color of the eye
becomes a fearful pale
because of the poor
light
they still laugh;
wrinkled and imbecile
at an early age
they joke about it:
a man who looks sixty
will say
I'm 32, and
then they'll laugh
they'll all laugh;
they are sometimes let
outside for a little air
but are chained to return
by chains they would not
break
if they could;
even outside, among
free men
they continue to laugh,
they walk about
with a hobbled and inane
gait
as if they'd lost their
senses; outside
they chew a little bread,
haggle, sleep, count their pennies,
gaze at the clock
and return;

sometimes in the confines
they even grow serious
a moment, they speak of
Outside, of how horrible
it must be
to be
shut Outside
forever, never to be let
back in;
it's warm as they work
and they sweat a
bit,
but they work hard and
well, they work so hard
the nerves revolt
and cause trembling,
but often they are
praised by those
who have risen up
out of them
like stars,
and now the stars
watch
watch too
for those few
who might attempt a
slower pace or
show disinterest
or falsify an
illness
in order to gain
rest (rest must be
earned to gain strength
for a more perfect
job).

sometimes one dies
or goes mad
and then from Outside
a new one enters
and is given
opportunity.

I have been there
many years;
at first I believed the work
monotonous, even
silly
but now I see
it all has meaning,
and the workers
without faces
I can see are not really
ugly, and that
the heads without eyes---
I know now that those eyes
can see
and are able to
do the work.
the women workers
are often the best,
adapting naturally,
and some of these I
made love to in our
resting hours; at first
they appeared to be
like female apes
but later
with insight
I realized
that they were things
as real and alive as
myself.

the other night
an old worker
grey and blind
no longer useful
was retired
to the Outside.

speech! speech!
we demanded.

it was
hell, he said.

we laughed
all 4000 of us:
he had kept his
humor
to the
end.
~Charles Bukowski

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