A Bill of Sale

Eight or seven years ago,
before my back
began to scream at night,
we worked a rusted freighter
held together by forgotten screws.

The cargo was burlap bags of coffee
and the lingering heat of Latin sun.
Spilled beans became
ball bearings beneath our feet
as we swung the sacks into
bulging stacks on pallet boards.

The talk was of other lives
and private selves
with dreams of suburbs
and hard fought football games.

An older brother heard something
in my own embroidered tale
and said: what’s
a nice educated boy like you
doing in a job like this?
I said then,
and pray it can be said at the end,
I sold my body
to save my mind.

:: Gene Dennis, in Going for Coffee (1981)

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