Each night we looked for a slip of milk
at the bottom of a cold stone bowl,
for signs of a widening chink in the armor
of darkness. We lay our heads on wooden
pillows; even in dreams, we went to work
in factories with no fire escapes.
Though our hunger grew, we tried
not to let it show. We peered
through the slats of the floor to see
how pigs churned up the mud from habit,
how the slop they were fed was never
ever enough. When they came for the line
order cooks and the busboys, for dishwashers
and drivers without papers, we despaired
about stories we’d heard of finding one
way in and back— we who’d kept our clean
laundry in boxes under the sink, our few
letters from home tied with string in a sock.
We who’d come to memorize by heart
the number of steps to the next landing,
how our fingers could fumble in a hallway
to find the cord to turn on the lamp.