Wayne F. Burke — 2 Poems

Poetry image

A Man’s Work
by Wayne F. Burke

The clerk at the store said
“pickin’ oranges be a man’s work.”
Had to rip the little buggers from
the tree—like the State taking kids
out of a home—and the branches
full of thorns, and the sweat pouring,
enough to water lawns, and the farmer
a good ole boy racist atop his tractor
like a chariot, watching us bleed and

Tied a noose onto a pole to tug the
topmost oranges off, wore long-sleeved
shirts, laid a sheet to catch the yellow balls
that fell in staccato bursts. A 3 by 5 foot
bin 5 bucks worth. The farmer began to
talk-up his daughter to us; Jamaicans in the
next row out-picked us though: almond eyes,
coffee skin, they did not chat.

The bins filled slower than a baseball game;
we got bored, ran out of talk, quit; had to
boss each other: say “get to work you son-
of-a-bitch!” Say “how about you, you ain’t
done shit!” Like that. Cooled off at the
swimming hole which was no Myrtle Beach
but cold enough and wet. Listened to them
bugs screech: WEEP! WEEP! WEEP! Regular
as breath. Pocketed our money and headed
for the coast and the Land of Milk and Honey,
only we never made it, and probably never will.


A guy who picked me up
hitch hiking gave
me a job as security guard
where I sat all night in a tiny shack
and checked trucks in and out
and on slow nights read a book
and put my feet up
and sometimes smoked pot.
One night I woke in an earthquake
the shack trembling from the idle
of a twelve-wheeler loaded with
cars, and I stepped out, half-asleep
as I lifted the long aluminum pole
the truck started through
and I lost my grip
and the pole fell over the cab and
bent in the shape of a horseshoe
and the truck driver had several kinds
of fits and some guy screamed in
my face as the yard lights blazed
bright as day…
The rest of that night I stayed awake
going out now and then
to lift the bent pole
a little higher.

During Wayne F. Burke’s long work history, he was Roughneck on a natural gas rig, fry cook, laborer for MANPOWER and other outfits, filling station attendant, furniture mover, orange picker, etc., etc. He is presently employed as an LPN in a nursing home. His poems have appeared in FORGE, miller’s pond, Northeast Corridor, and Bareback. His book of poems, WORDS THAT BURN, is available now from Bareback Press