Because I did not have to smell the cow’s fear,
because I did not have to pin the man, watch his eyes
go feral, because I did not have to drag the stones
that formed in the child’s body, because I did not sheathe
my hands in dank soil, or skirt the machine’s battering, the needles
knitting my lower back, because when the factory collapsed
I smelled no smoke, and no one made me kneel at the cop’s boots
and count the pulse slowing beside me as every sound
soured, because my hands have never had to resist being comforted
by the warmth of blood, because the plastic-
wrapped meat and the mousetraps, because my job
was to stay clean and thankful and mostly imaginary, I have been stealing
what little I can:
                           onions. sandpaper. handfuls of skin.
the dumpster’s metal groan. hurried breath. hot knives.


Copyright © 2018 by Franny Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem
“This poem came out of a conversation with the poet Ilya Kaminsky, during which he said something like, ‘Capitalism distances us from our senses.’ It made me think about what potential for resistance might be hidden in the sensory, what minor acts of resistance we might find there. I hope (while avoiding the suggestion that smelling onions, etc., can be a substitute for material, social change) this poem can open a little aperture of hope on the days we feel crushed by our inability to break out of the larger systems.”
—Franny Choi