nederlandse taal
english language

Poetry International Web
dutch news
previous | next

(Southwell Workhouse)
We’re men half-
baked – swinging
lead-heavy sledges

over our heads
on elbowy sticks
of bread. Hour

by hour: men
of flour. Saved by
a pinch of salt.

Here because
we ought to use
our loaf. Because

men of fire eat
iron. Rust. Entire
nations. But we

float through days
on crusts. Dawn
to dusk each raft

the same. Like
us. Each slice we
are – adrift on

a basin of gruel.
Breakfast. Dinner.
Supper. One fuel.

And when at last
we rise to heaven
then I suppose

we’ll be made
to mow His fields
divine with wheat –

move mountains
of holy yeast – and
reach back down

to knead (one
by one) each grey
cloud of dough.

Poet's Note: The staple of the workhouse diet was bread.
‘Sledge’ = sledgehammer.