The Rough and Tumble Kind

The crop won’t yield you enough to survive on this year
you’ll sell the farm that has been in your family for over three generations
and take a job at the local pallet factory
eight in the morning until six in the evening
moving wood back and forth with a fork lift
from one end of the warehouse to another
you’ll dream even long after the dream has died
it is the essence of the dream to cover over the proof of all that has been laid to rest
expectations a younger man might hold
the ones you’ve had to let go of
pragmatics in this country is like a breathing exercise
you don’t bite the hand that doesn’t feed you
it is invisible and your teeth won’t find purchase
you punch in, you punch out,
you eat, you sleep, you go to bed at night with regret running up and down your spine
wake up in the morning
do it all over again
in exact order
you’re on automatic
you don’t ask questions
you don’t expect much
and eventually you no longer dream
you are just dead eyes moving pallets across a floor
three generations of ghosts looking down over you from somewhere up above
each one of them whispering “push on” into your ear,
what other choice do you have?
And so you do.

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (2018, Indolent Books) and editor of the forthcoming anthology What Keeps us Here: Songs from The Other Side of Trauma. In 2016 he founded the online literary arts and music journal Anti-Heroin Chic to provide a platform for often unheard voices, including those struggling with addiction, mental illness and Prison/confinement. He resides in upstate New York, in between balanced rocks and horse farms. He has never believed in anything as strongly as he does the power of poetry to help heal a shattered life. Read other articles by James.