There are twenty-four hours in the day.
Some red, sunset, fire,
some green, pasture, seed.
There are ten hours in a shift.
Some pink, like sunset when
sun marches in bright squares
across the factory floor and
blood leaves long streaks
across the unpolished plastic doors.
Some green, like memory.
We all remember greener places.
At the end of the week
men take their coin to the glass
and in firelight with ruddy cheek,
live lives measured up in foam
and golden, like loam off the grain,
We shovel coal in a round furnace
with steel barrows.
Grow our beards long.
Know heat, fire, sparks
flit through our mouths,
settle in our eyes, shudder,
fall apart in our hearts
consumed by fatigue.
Give me something to work for.
Sweat drops from my cheek,
married to the metal
I bleed iron and lead.
I died with these men
on a foreign land
where machines of war
churned up the soil
milked it red.
The men talked of home
and the heat of coal in their lungs,
and black-eyed girls they loved.
Later, ravens picked apart their corpses
like the night sky pulled apart
and I remembered how when the land
was naked to the wind, not fenced in,
I defined myself
by the work of my hands;
like bands of time,
we are woven together.
—Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Vine Leaves, among others. She is a freelance editor and the associate director of Writespace, a nonprofit literary center in Houston, Texas. She currently resides in Seabrook, Texas. Find her online @HollyLynWalrath or www.hlwalrath.com.