Carl Wade Thompson, 8/28/2016
Current Occupation: Graduate Programs Writing Tutor
Former Occupation: Janitor/Meat Packer/Waste Disposal/Fork Life Operator
Contact Information: Carl Wade Thompson is a poet and graduate programs writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. His work often focuses on his manual labor experiences.
Cleaning’s never easy,
especially kids’ stuff.
Working for the school
some thirty years,
I walk the halls hourly,
the invisible man.
I vacuum, I sweep,
dust off those damned desks.
The children don’t see me
though I watch over them.
Fist fights, bullies, graffiti,
I see them at their worst.
Honestly, I can say
I notice when they’re good.
Carefree, happy, playing’
they seem at their best.
Why don’t they see me,
the ghost in the hall?
Now day’s end,
I empty trash cans,
“Make sure to dust.”
I nod, shuffle on.
Am I more than pushed broom?
Some days I’m not so sure.
A child—taught, drilled,
the Dream inherent
in every free breath.
Dog loyal to a fault,
I fetch for teachers,
in books, school, and TV tubes.
Never a chance for disbelief,
the carrot, always ahead,
I carried on, eyes shut to truth.
Classes and degrees,
the Dream, that American promise,
like Lot’s wife a pillar of salt
packed into a deep wound.
Mama, tell me why you lied?
Part-time work, never enough,
Teach eight classes at four colleges,
learn to talk, to schmooze,
try to get in with whoever I can.
Each day consume and be consumed;
Time, never enough, always behind,
Work harder, smarter, in the dark,
mine shaft going down.
If God loves America,
I don’t know what God is.
The quarters of beef came on a rail,
hoisted in rows of frigid flesh,
needing that touch,
that skilled hand;
Been boning meat for a lifetime,
for eight and a quarter an hour.
He knew his knives as well as he knew himself.
There wasn’t an animal he couldn’t bone
done a deer once,
cut it in ten,
and they’re boney too.
When it came to meat he never knew his match,
but few care for such skill,
trade passed on, no glory to come.
For forty years he worked his craft,
all he had was arthritis to show for it.