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A Worker At the Waterworks

ISSUE:  Summer 2000

He watched the water purling away.
No doubt it would soon be carrying off
loads of human excrement, with the lost
parts of bodies, dead cells, hairs,
bits and parts of burnt energy, the
stuff left over after the hard day’s work,
after the argument, the loving in the
small bed while the kids slept fitfully.
There the tears of his beloved melted
into the blood, sweat, and tears of a city.

Off they go, he said, the domestic sewage,
and the storm runoff, to be wed and
to become the combined sewage; off it goes,
through flush tanks and scum collectors, through
grit chambers and sedimentation tanks,
through trickling filters and activated-
sludge units, through oxidation ponds
and the centrifuge, through heat coagulators
and into the incinerators, where, at last,
all our loves go up in smoke.

And the outfall works drop pure water,
cleansed, unsullied by any particle of humanity,
by any pitiful history of the human condition,
into the swaying receiving waters of river and sea.


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