The Lords of Labor

— Karl Marx writing “The Economic
and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.”

It was the time when children scrubbed
inside chimneys, or crawled
the methane swamps of the coal mines,

lit by iridescent fish.
Mud streets and snuff and muck slops,
horsehair beds, grindwheel and harrow.

The time when to show your mettle
meant showing the flint chips
stuck in your arm; when

to fire a worker meant, burn down his house.


Time was, Karl Marx sat rubbing his back
(no bristling beard yet; no doctrines),
sat studying so long

he couldn’t sit; the doctor said he’d gotten
Weaver’s Bottom, new ailment
of the kitchen-industrial age.

Marx frowns at his Hegel.  Hegel’s ideas
flutter like angels overhead.
Lonely; he watches the fire grate;

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