A belowdecks storeroom— bottles and vials spilled from drawers and shelves at sea in rough waters-- was locked three years. Mr. May and Chief Payne said to go down and clean it up. It was like a bunch of dead little birds, the crinkled brown bags, torn cardboard boxes, broken glass, bulkheads and overhead peeling, a sickly orange tinged with yellow, tilted shelves we took apart and got out, then started on the glass. Our drill, like a jackhammer in a laborer’s grip tearing up concrete, had clout. We stripped corroded rust, sandblasted bulkheads, painted the deck. I recall drilling away the bulkheads’ rust. Even masked, we must have inhaled toxic particles. Years later a nurse who smoked and drank said “Ninety-nine percent is our DNA, heart, cancer..not damn thing we can do about it.”
About the Poet:
Peter Mladinic’s fourth book of poems, Knives on a Table, is available from Better Than Starbucks Publications. An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.