Everyday Altruism

Wind carries certain smells through the air:
sometimes a whiff of anise, smoky peat;

phosphorus, chocolate, wet dog. Driving
through the town closest to a poultry

processing plant, we held our breath
from the odors of dead or dying flesh.

How do they stand it, you asked, referring
to all the people who must be employed there,

cutting and dressing and packing parts.
They must hold masses of quivering pink

in their hands and lay them out in a certain
order: 12 to a tray, or 10, or 6; then vacuum-

seal them in casings of styrofoam and plastic.
There are certain things we don’t want to do

but that we’ll do anyway, because they
will matter to others. Some go deep

into the earth bearing no other hope
than a canary. Others go deeper still

to sacrifice who they might have been if not
for their desire to provide for others.

And the ocean is boundless, as the sky
is boundless; and we name them ocean

and sky though we don’t know which
secret name they would rather answer to.

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