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  • Todd Wooten

Cramped

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Unable to see the ground for the trembling

cotton around my ankles.

Thousands of chickens breaking like an overcast sky.

Spewing feathers and dust. Running 'neath the

drip line delivering antibiotics and vitamins.

Rounding automatic feed bins that keep the

multitudes fed. Bred faster and fatter.


I am Death. Noting one with a broken leg.

Striking with my PVC pipe scythe

a runt that would not satiate an infant.

I crack the beak and skull.

Returning with a five-gallon

bucket that fills with the culled.

Worth it to lose a couple bucks.


Workers packed in the factory.

Dissecting corpses on conveyor belt labs.

Elbows touching, they stand.

Sharing breath and sweat.

Plastic eyes looking down.

Half hour to eat in a twelve-hour shift.

Taking bites despite what they've seen.

Taking wagers - who won't survive the night -

Returning to the trailer park.

Single-wide five-member family.


I reach my apartment studio.

Sandwiched between footsteps overhead

broom handles banging from the floor.

So tired, so bored, for a few minutes I dream.

I wake and grab aspirin and a fast food chain value meal.

All I can afford, 'til my minimum wage

paycheck arrives at the end of the week.

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