A Trade

Max Vandersteen
Max Vandersteen

Max Vandersteen is a retired pipefitter who took up writing poetry upon retirement to address social justice and environmental issues including those of the petrochemical industry in which he worked throughout his career. He has published 3 books: Iguanas of El Ray, Fair Play, and Work of Words. He has had numerous poems included in anthologies and is a member of The Parkland Poetry Society, The Ontario Poetry Society, and currently the vice president of The Edmonton Stroll of Poets Society.

A Trade

by Max Vandersteen

Liken me to any of the many men
who have left the playing field,
luckier than some
at the outcome
when the recap is revealed.

We’re kicking through the litter
on the sidelines
or in the coal mines
feeling just a little bitter.

I was beckoned totally by the money
but now I wonder at it all
when I recall
the conditions we worked under,
we thought then worthwhile,
to attain
and maintain
a family and lifestyle.

Reckon me fortunately uninfected
by the contaminants in the air,
carbon hexes
and fibrous asbestos
that lingered everywhere.

Figure me inflicted to forgive
over benzenes and carcinogens,
dioxins and mutagens
we endured so that we could live.

Imagine me far from where
sulfur saturates the air.

Picture me on a Caribbean island
where no bitumen inhabits the sand,
where mercury rises in the thermometer
not throughout the local water.

Define me proudly by my trade
but protect me from the trade I made.


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