Company Property

When the buzzer sounds
for our break, Vargas emerges
from the trucks he's loaded
on the graveyard shift
for more than five years,
shoving clear a section
of the resting conveyor belt,
the heavy boxes falling
and bursting all over
the docks around him.
He gets on the belt,
lying face up and squirming,
then stopping and listening
for the crinkripplesnapsigh
that throws his spine back into
alignment. A new man,
he walks with me
to the lunch truck, talking
on the way about school. He says
he's now the top Biochem
student at the local
community college, got the award
at a banquet last night to prove it.
As I dig through the ice pack
looking for a Gatorade, I ask
if he's heard from U.S.C. yet
and as he pays for his daily
Coke and bearclaw, Vargas
tells me that he's on some
waiting list, but after two letters
of appeal, he hasn't heard
a thing. While I wait for my change
he sits down with a bunch
of the old timers on our crew,
bullshitting about the properties
of donuts and enzymes,
his break ticking away.

:: M. Jayme, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)

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