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Night Shift At The Fruit Cannery

September 01, 2002|Ilze Klavina Mueller | From "A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women," edited by Marilyn Arnold, Bonnis Ballif-Spanvill and Kristen Tracy (University of Iowa: 202 pp., $19.95 paper)

The thin neon light spills on the hands in the tubs,

the pale halves of the pears that must be dipped in salt

water to

keep from turning brown,

the endless procession of cans that moves past the women

now and at midnight and dawn and on and on

even in sleep, even in dream.

Fingers turn wrinkled, turn pale like the pears,

take on a life of their own as they nestle the slippery fruit

spoonfashion in the can,

barely stopping to push the straggling hair back under the


No time to talk, no time to look up,

nothing to look up at.

Time has stopped, there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no


but now, no place but here,

this slave ship hurtling through eons of empty space.

And at the whistle which rends the rumble and clatter and

din that

taught their ears not to hear,

the women stumble outside like children woken too early for


stretching stiff limbs and creaking necks, testing a voice

rusty from

lack of use.

Still dazzled-eyed, they look up and see

stars in their multitudes blazing over their heads.

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