The Nature of Work                                                             by Robert Stewart

Out of four hens, we get one
egg a day
so far, 
varied once by a double yolk, 
 
otherwise the division of labor 
suggests a union coop, 
as on Sunday,
Silver lays; Monday, Mary— 
 
the barred rocks—then the buff 
Orpingtons Tuesday, Wednesday, 
almost the rotation 
deserves a factory whistle  
 
for production of brown shells 
in pine shavings this January,
clocked in
for a seven-day work week;
 
so one hen could rotate out 
a week each month—one 
in the hole
as on my old street crew, one
 
unseen by passers by,
who honk to say 
everyone knows 
the union divides up work: 
 
one to dig, one to throw 
dirt into the truck bed, 
one with a clipboard
and leaning on a longhandle.
 
No matter what deals get made
in coop or clutch, work
gets done 
by one alone in the dark.

Robert Stewart’s latest book of poems is Working Class (2018, Stephen F. Austin State Univ.); his latest collection of essays is The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art & Values (2014, Serving House).  For many years, he edited New Letters quarterly, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Guest Editor Katelyn Roth graduated from Pittsburg State University with her Master’s in poetry. Her work has previously appeared online at Silver Birch Press and at Heartland: Poems of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity. Currently, she lives, works, and writes in Kansas City.

One thought on “The Nature of Work                                                             by Robert Stewart

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