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Poetry: Four dollars

Out of the Sandbox

By Preston Caruso


Four dollars

Four, real, crisp dollars

For a single sandwich slightly larger than a child’s palm

Four Quarters, ten dimes, I don’t know how many nickels,

And way too many pennies.


I’m trying to think about all the work

About the chickens penned up in hotboxes

Ungodly, inflated abominations, artificial muscles loose with enzymes

Trying to count out how much misery it might be worth

Or the farmers, walking in to the pens every so often to pick up the dead corpses

Not knowing what got them, but praying all the same it doesn’t get the rest.

What pays for their good night’s sleep?


Or the misery of the workers who live in a bubble of clucks and screams

Lift, chop, carve, lift, chop, carve, lift, chop, carve.

Everything adhered and stingingly slick with partials of entrails.

No matter how much you scrub or wipe own or clean.

A little bit of your skin always grazes invisible muck

How much is trickled down then, a few dimes? A quarter?


Who pays the man who takes it, back and forth?

Riding along the road, a gentle itch buried deep somewhere

Sometimes satiated by distant memories of a throw back

Or the spur of some broadcaster, clenching his fumes?

Can one of my dollars satiate his fears?

Of loneliness, of morphing into something inhuman by the fishbowl?


The wheat farmers, the Americans who keep them afloat

Their break being repacked, reawaked, rising a little in the heat of the stove

I only see the bright, smiling youngster.

Always thin, always with something in their hair

I’ve never known someone to work here that hasn’t been lost


Four Dollars

For a sandwich with salt swirling around my mouth

For too rough breading and near liquefied pickles


Header photo by Poppy (flickr creative commons)

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