Brown Lung

Sometimes I'd spend the whole night coughing up
what I'd been breathing in all day at work.
I'd sleep in a chair or take a good stiff drink,
anything to get a few hours rest.

The doctor called it asthma and suggested
I find a different line of work as if
a man who had no land or education
could find himself another way to live.

For that advice I paid a half-day's wage.
Who said advice is cheap? It got so bad
each time I got a break at work I'd find
the closest window, try to catch a breath.

My foreman was a decent man who knew
I would not last much longer on that job.
He got me transferred out of the card room,
let me load the boxcars in the yard.

But even though I slept more I'd still wake
gasping for air at least one time a night,
and when I dreamed I dreamed of bumper crops
of Carolina cotton in my chest.

by Ron Rash

Comments (1)

A moving testimony that demands that compassionate citizens choose governance by the people. Such a government would stand up for safe working conditions and universal single payer health care. How many workers are hacking their lives away because profit is valued more highly than people? I feel infuriated by fickle nature of corporations who use the bodies of men and women and then abandons them. That we blindly vote people into office whose best friends are these scoundrels is beyond comprehension. Of course, now the greed merchants are off to other shores, employing new textile workers at even lower wages and creating a new community of nighttime hackers.