DEATH BY PLASTIC

Circa 1996

Severed limbs, bloodless now, invisible in sand
like the dozing mines that claimed them
They have all the time in the world

The children of Vietnam are lining up for rubber feet
The men of Afghanistan learn to walk on their elbows
There’s a man clearing minefields in Kuwait with cash
in his pocket and a thousand crickets in his head

The Sunday magazine has fallen open
Here in the kitchen, just so many hunks
of dubious industry—they look like thermos bottles,
mess kits, hockey pucks, ice cream makers

Cheap and efficient and two of them
for every Angolan man, woman, child


The man cleaning up Kuwait can work no faster
Years later, still he wears a sliver
of his buddy’s legbone in his lip

And the grunt who stood lightly on a live one
twelve hours while they dug the mud—picture
the newsreel behind his eyes: boot touches down,
click drubs bowels, heart flies up

Everyone makes them and everyone who does makes money
Barefoot boys make pull-toys, wagon wheels from spent mines

It’s the click beneath your foot, then nothing
It’s the click beneath your foot and the two guys behind you
gone

Eggs fry and laundry soaks the planet over
People wake up knowing

somewhere under their lives waits three dollars of despair
So many stumps dimpled like potatoes

Listen to the future, the thunder
of it, earth and bone and innocence exploding—
And us safe on every inch of our unmined ground

© 1997 Ellen Watson
from Broken Railings (Owl Creek Press, 1997)

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