down at the docks

I once worked at the docks in Wilmington as
a casual longshoreman
I worked among giant ships that camped on the Pacific
waiting for their one-million-dollar-a-night slip;
I worked at 3am when the ocean was dark
with the blessid men and my big loud ford
that trundled over Harry Bridges,
halfway up to heaven, above the lights and the ships,
the cranes like giant giraffes drooling razor-sharp wire:
and they swung in the orange-painted wind
grabbing giant containers filled with
god knows what.
I stood on the crowded docks, me and my reddish light
as the eighteen wheelers skimmed by and
the veterans drank beer and whiskey
(while the new guys (like me) only dreamed of that
privilege)
the combatants made six figures a year, while the ships
float in from overseas with the goods and merchant marines;
the longshoremen were large and loud
their chins held high as they strutted the docks
with smiles so big and red Malden noses.
I stood amid strangers with my reddish light
as they talked of Brando and On the Waterfront.
(there wasn’t a day I worked where that movie
wasn’t mentioned).
and this locale: the ships the cranes the blackened sea
made me feel tough:
a man
a longshoreman
a Brando
a Malden, even old Hem and Jack London.
I’d never worked with giant ships before
I’d never been so impressed with myself.

but then the blue rivers turned to black, so the cranes went to
sleep, and my ford stopped trundling;
the ships gathered like ants on pieces of sun raped candy

but now, the moon is stained a deep dark purple,
so I can still see the lights of the ships and the
razor-sharp wire, grabbing the oversea containers filled with

god knows what.

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