Contest Winner

Working People's Poetry Competition


Rana Plaza: Fire in the Rescue Tunnel
The Rana Plaza Building in Bangladesh housed a garment factory.
It collapsed in April 2013 killing 1138 workers and injuring 200 more.

I woke up in my grave before I died.
Not once, but time and darkening time again,
I'd heard the floor explode and then the space
that was the room changed places with the wall
that made it. I was drowned in brick, I turned
to dust, became a mote of broken plaster,
became the blinded space within the crack.
Gravel crowded past my lips, filled my mouth,
I moaned -- a kind of ecstasy this death.

But I was not so dead I couldn't hear.
I heard the fire fighters' calling, and
their weeping. They said we came for you
before we knew your name. But, oh, we lost you
to the sour greed of flame.

              N.C. Otter

Runner Up

Out of Darkness

A broken window glitters on the third floor
far above the yellow pine beam I'm scabbing in
over my head in the basement. Hundred-year-old joist silt
falls like acid mist into my eyes, arms trembling,
fingers numb as the new kid fumbles
with the Rockwell at the ladder foot
for a skill he doesn't have. I can see

the pile of shattered green glass snow
spread across the sky. It's the cruelty
of infant things taken early
I seem to love down here.
Clarity cut into small pieces,
the glass swept and sparkling me
in the sunshine, dead as coal, ready to shred
the helping hand.

The kid sets the brace -- the cut somehow
perfect. Pete appears from the other side
of the ancient brick wall, his face burnt white
by mortar dust. He looks up
and smiles at the fit, his eyes
strangled by fatigue and latent debt
to this dim floor, our lucent future.
I will never leave the company
of these hard men.

We rise out of the basement and pause, stunned
by sunshine coming through the last clear,
faultless window as if we are newborns
issued from the darkness.

              J.L. Schneider

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