Poem in Which I Consider My Labours

It’s like the cotton mills of the eighteenth century,
he says. Yes – yes. My mouth

is open and tilted, a golf hole. Outside, the students
squall, butting their foreheads

against the dome of the afternoon. I am stunted,
frayed from the defibrillator kick

of early wakeups, shifts that begin in dim morning toffee
and end in the dumb blackout of sleep.

Yes – I’m deafened by the machine’s gut-snap clatter.
Such heat and dust! Such grotesque accidents!

The walls are shored up with staples and knucklebone.
I pack thick wads of student assignments

(my students – that puddle of yellow beaks) into my bag,
and set out into the dark

where my ancestors stand in a wonky, makeshift chorus.
They’re hard-fired, lean as striplings,

got up in their double-darned best. Their sighing’s
the engine of my endeavour;

their sighing’s the bright sting of all my luck,
and ADULT is all about using your anger

just so: kitten piston, slow combustor,
mechanism of the soft intestine.

Kate Potts

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