Scenes of Labor Day

Retired. Relaxing. Is he enjoying the labor of his youth?
A grandfather passes the time in Nakapinyi, Mukono district.

It’s the day when we remember workers of the world. I do not know what made me look through my scrap folder, but I found this poem, which I wrote in October of 2009, shortly before I went to Nepal. I cannot remember why I wrote it, what the ‘inspiration’ was, but it is clearly about a vegetable seller struggling to make ends meet, and failing to impress his wife. I dedicate it to all working men out there who are going through tough times, who cannot seem to fill their pockets with happiness, however much they try. I normally don’t publish poems, though I have written quiet a tidy pile of them, but I do hope you enjoy this one.


The cabbage
He collapses as he pushes the cart to the market
He lies burnt out on the pile of unsold cabbages
Though his weight and sweat ruin the stock.
she hates the necklaces I buy at clearance sales
so I wonder if I married a princess.
The hat rests on his nose
To shield his face from passing eyes
That shine like suns in hollow skulls.
she serves me bread without any butter
so I wonder if I married my mother
His battered body yearns for the balm in a smoke.
He takes a crumpled cigarette from his pocket
But his palms, wet with sweat, ruin the matches.
she makes love to me in autopilot
so I wonder if I married a harlot.
He smashes the hat onto the unsold cabbages
Then the cigarette that he failed to light.
Rage in his feet. He stomps it all into the dirt.
The poem is dated 4th October 2009. I cannot think of what I was doing on that day that I wrote this poem, but does it capture the mood of a frustrated worker?
A fruit seller waits for customers in Lainchor, Kathmandu, Nepal
Salute women for their ability to multi-task.
Here is a hair dresser, vegetable seller and baby sitter.
An egg hawker in Lazimpart, Kathmandu, Nepal
Unrecognized labor. A boy hawks firewood in Soroti, Uganda.
Fruits of labor. Sorghum harvest in Katakwi, Uganda.
I should be particularly on for this labor day. Normally, writers are not considered as laborers. People always think of a worker as someone who has a boss, and earns a regularly salary. But I think I am a worker too, though I mostly idle around the house farting and hoping for a big break — I think it is coming soon. Finally, after a long struggle, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I was shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013, for a short story I wrote way back in 2002 but has never been published. You can read about it here. I do hope this short list opens doors for me, and puts me on the path to becoming a writer who earns a living from his fantasies 🙂
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