Feed Mill Faces

By James Papworth

Each morning  
sparrows come  
shrugging off the brownness  
of the only life they know
Cuddled in cracks  
they beak for lice.  
Streaked brick  
tells the story of their yesterdays.  

Chunks of dung  
litter rat-goings;  
they stare hard in search of hunger.  
Listen:  
they hum as they shell red wheat.  

Outside the feed mill  
on El Dorado  
bums belch  
and spit hooch phlegm
They hold their city  
in tied-up bags.  
Up and down the rail they trudge  for nothing.  
Modesto. Madera. Fresno 
Neighbors come and go.  
Faces roll by shades of soot,  
'gadung gadung gadung' of rail  
rattles them to sleep.  

In dreams  
I see on the hard horizon  
rats with no eyes  
moving across the land.  
Sparrows circle and soar  
with red-caped heads
Bums have taken jobs.  

James Papworth