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.