The Draining Sun (A Memory) – Eduard Dantes
The sun shone upon his blackened back.
He’d taken off his working shirt;
The only one he owned,
To protect it from the burning sun’s attack.
The heat felt like fire from an open oven
And his sweat didn’t cool him any.
He smelled like a man who’d been working ten hours too long.
Everyday at home, after his shift,
He’d take off his shoes
And everyone would leave his vicinity.
Then he’d take his pint of milk;
They gave him one at the end of each day
Presented in a plastic packet coloured blue;
The kind of packet
Street kids used to sniff their glue.
‘What’s that for?’ his adopted nephew’d ask.
‘It’s to protect me from the tar,
The milk stops my lungs turning black.’
‘Does it work?’
‘They say it does,
But more importantly, do you want some milk?’
‘Yes please, uncle.’
The uncle’d never drink it,
He said never liked it,
Except in tea,
And especially that occasional drop in coffee.
When it was finished
He’d go wash darkened body.
When that was finished
His wife’d give him the talk,
The talk most wives give their men
Then he’d storm out,
Off to the bar,
Shouting at those who remained
‘I don’t work all day covered in tar
Just to get this talk.
We can barely afford shelter and food,
Let alone a car.’
When he came home
Late in the night
He’d wash his socks
In yesterday’s soapy foam
Then soon to the land of drunken dreams
He’d be gone.
In the morning he’d wear his almost dry socks
Then go off to work laying tar;
Paving roads to a future in the burning sun,
With only a pint of milk for protection.