A man named Leo walks close behind me,

says, I ate pizza and my tooth cap for lunch today

and I turn to his gap of black gore and smile.

His tooth is jagged soot, dark like moss-ridden

tree bark, a fine tiramisu-dusting of rotten root

sifted onto his tongue. But he keeps working;

he has seen worse than this, porter hands dug deep

into recycling bins of pale yellow kale molted to plastic.

He rolls his highlighter-colored bin of bright-smelling pineapple core

onto the freight elevator, and we wait as the metal chains yawn

their way to the basement. Before the punching-bag uvula

of this metal mouth melts its sand into the floor, Leo knocks

his head in the direction of the emergency call box

and asked if anyone’s ever called me,

says, Telemarketers, politicians, or anyone else

you don’t want to be talking to, especially while at work.

Don’t know how they got the number, but today

they called me about back pain.

Imagine, me, having time for back pain.

Imagine the elevator stuck, the box busy, buzzing

with adverts for a free Hawaiian vacation,

and you, an audience unwillingly stuck in jaw.

Outside, the slim spine of a kitten licks

dirty drips from the grease vat,

darts the moment the metal maw of door latch closes

behind us. And even when the brown tuft of dirt-stuck fur

is gone, I rummage through the winking eyes

of potato tubers and liquid-like onions

for something that could’ve helped.

“Freight” is a poem I wrote in 2019. It was published in Crêpe & Penn Issue ONe, which you can read online.