Handlers

Poem by Ernest Hilbert

We watch the hectic scene

Through aquarium glass

From our chilled leather seats

As if before a stage:

 

The baggage crew knocks

And tosses the black and

blue Bales of bulky luggage.

One absentmindedly

 

Kicks a folded stroller

Till it zips down a chute.

He howls a dirty joke

Over his big shoulder.

 

They hardly notice the weight.

They shift an endless freight

Of boxers, bras, and shoes,

Bright communion salvers

 

Of cosmetics, a locked

And confidential cargo

Of shampoo and compacts

Clamped stubbornly as clams.

 

Another flips a girl’s toy

case— A pink plastic seashell—

Across a cloud canvas

From Constable. Such art!

 

It rides over its arc,

Across the fume-filled air,

Until it smacks and spins

Atop a growing pile.

 

It seems only objects—

Stiff rubber, plastic, steel—

Would survive out in

That blasted, roaring scene,

 

But handlers, in goggles,

Heavy gloves, and bright lime

Safety vests, shimmer

As they muscle the bags.

 

They thrive in the dire heat,

While we, clutching carry-ons,

Await our awful departure

Onto administered routes.

American Arts Quarterly, Winter 2016, Volume 36, Number 1