Sunday, February 14, 2016

before the day is done

There was a time I worked with contract workers (hahaha, I am now a contract worker myself) on a wiring project. Most of them are lowly educated, picking up their skills on the job. It was menial work mainly but one thing I learned about them, they never let their hard life get them down. There's always a smile on their faces and a joke waiting to burst out. Perhaps it is easier to pass the day this way?

I have posted this poem before, but it was getting little eyeballs. So yes, I thought I would share it again. :)

photo by dsnake1

before the day is done

as the last rays
of the sun
strain through the rain trees
into the hoist bay
we sit at a makeshift table
in a pow wow
before the day
is done

rolling our cigarettes

it is not easy really
tobacco rolling is an art
the fingers greasy no doubt
it's either that
a big slab of leaves
smuggled in
from indonesia

or beedies

then the click
of lighters
the lazy flare
of a match
the cackle of laughter
crude jokes
crows caw

a puff of smoke
puffs of smoke

stub out ends
a dented coke can
choked with butts

or let it burn
to the fingers

dropping ashes
to the concrete

ashes like squashed moths

more crows caw
truly rude jokes
caw caw caw
cough cough

they leave
we leave

unwashed mugs on the tabletop
waiting for moonlight to wash
over them



"come at the end of the shift
we'll go and get pissed"

-- Pink Floyd, Not Now John

Shared on Poetry Pantry #289 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Anonymous Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

When I moved from working as a teacher to administration, I longed for those days after work, kicking back and laughing. You have captured that sublime time that is lost when we stop working in the trenches and move up in jobs where we no longer can kick back and laugh....

14 February, 2016 23:32  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Donna, you are right about this. sometimes i do miss the good old days and its camaraderie, when we will just relax and swap stories and rumours after work. now it's just all work, work & work and it's just looking to get out of the office and get home...

15 February, 2016 00:02  
Blogger Jae Rose said...

Very good to have the opportunity to read this poem and to see the wonderful photo - i agree there is a sense of companionship in 'mere mortal' job roles that you don't get in so called professions..perhaps there is a sense of getting to know people as people not by the job they scraping and bowing just all at one table..sharing a cigarette and shift..but hopefully not letting it define you..i'll shut up now - needless to say thoroughly enjoyed!

15 February, 2016 00:20  
Blogger Sanaa Rizvi said...

Sigh.. you have really triggered some good old memories with this exquisite piece :)
Beautifully written.

Lots of love,

15 February, 2016 00:49  
Blogger Sumana Roy said...

they smoke beedies there?...quite a familiar scene of workers...a different world wonderfully sketched....

15 February, 2016 02:09  
Blogger Mary said...

You have really given a wonderful glimpse of the way things were! And yes, I feel the contentedness and the happiness. Hard work, but that camaraderie makes up for it!

15 February, 2016 02:36  
Blogger brudberg said...

There is something quite special in that last parting from work... nowadays people leave when they wish... (which often mean they have to stay longer than they wish) I miss the horn sound of a work-day over... the brief chat.. the jokes and everyone leaving at once.

15 February, 2016 03:28  
Blogger Magaly Guerrero said...

I'm right with you. When I went from working with a group to having to lead a group, I longed to the days when things were louder, structured by another, less demanding for the mind... even if draining for the body.

15 February, 2016 04:20  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

I like "ashes like squashed moths" is true, laborers must find what laughter and happiness they can, to ease the drudgery.

15 February, 2016 04:28  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I love this! You had me right there with you. And as a former smoker, and former visitor to Indonesia, I was able to enjoy the pungent smells and the whole ritual without the dangerous side-effects, lol!

15 February, 2016 06:52  
Blogger Jennifer Wagner said...

Cool the way you captured this. I like.

15 February, 2016 08:44  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


heh, i guess it all comes down to the individual, whether you are prepared to come down to their level to know them better, or if you are just content to stay in the ivory tower.
that photo are the real cups and mugs we used. you won't want to look inside them. :D
thanks for your wonderful comment.


glad that the poem has triggered some good memories. :)


yes, we smoke beedies here too, because they are cheaper than cigarettes. i think in your India, it is much more common for the ordinary workers to smoke that?


oh yes, the camaraderie more than makes up for the hard work.


i do agree with you on the new work ethics, people leaving when they wish, mostly staying back late. i used to do that, staying back to do more, on my own time, but now at my age, i have had enough. :D
leave that to the younger ones!


it's not fun being a chief, eh? i guess there are trade-offs, some loss of personal freedom, the bar is set higher...


it's true, they come across as squashed moths! and laughter ( and jokes) certainly eases the drudgery. :)


their clove cigarettes are extremely hazardous... :(


thank you! :)

15 February, 2016 21:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've painted such a realistic scene here... the last lines are lovely.

15 February, 2016 21:45  
Blogger Ella said...

I felt like a moth hovering, as I read your words and saw workers find gold in the tangle of wires, in the daily rants and laughter. It is life to find the sparks in the daily mundane to carry us and our hearts forward.
Bravo! We need to be reminded of our humanity~

15 February, 2016 22:51  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


yes, i am very satisfied with the ending. usually, i fret over the last lines. :)


thank you for the visit and the wonderful comment.

yes, it was a tangle of wires, pulling out the old ones and replacing them with new wires. it was dusty and laborious work and the only complaint they made was when the pay is late. :)

15 February, 2016 23:31  
Blogger James Toma said...

I"ve worked with people who did this at a former employer and it was a way of life that I understood so well. nothing to go to after work, nothing exciting waiting at home, so they sat around a table, puffed smoke and talked of marital issues, of movies on tv, and so and so. It all just made me smile to myself and know that every occurrence in life has its own positive part about it. so I admired these kinds of meetings (of beer drinkers and nicotine smokers...) at the end of the day, it's all to pass time. great reminder, bought back memories. thank you.

16 February, 2016 05:40  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

James, thank you for the insightful comment. :)
i have worked most of my life and it's always good to share a smoke or a beer with colleagues after work. we would talk on all sorts of issues, politics, home, money, or the lack of it. but nowadays, we hardly do that anymore, maybe the work environment has changed. technology may have isolated us. maybe the priorities have shifted. perhaps those were gentler times.

16 February, 2016 21:26  
Blogger A Cuban In London said...

I agree with you on the manual-labour workers. I have shared shifts with similar colleagues and they always kept their spirits high, sharing a joke and winding me up about football. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

17 February, 2016 07:42  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

"winding me up about football" : haha, that's good. :)
i guess humans are gregarious by nature, we will see these "gatherings" in London or Singapore or any other work places in the world.

17 February, 2016 22:50  
Blogger R.K. Garon said...

Yes! A great snapshot of many meetings I have been part of.
I enjoy this kind of writing and the "subject matter"...(they are who I hope will be our readers :-)

18 February, 2016 00:48  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

ZQ, you are a member of such meetings too? ah yes, i hope they will be our readers too, and better still, writers in our community. :)

18 February, 2016 23:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I enjoyed the imagery and especially the tone of this poem.


19 February, 2016 07:06  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

hey Gel, it's great to hear from you again! it has been ages since we last communicated on-line. :)
some parts were written in a stuttered kind of way, just like how some of those guys spoke, never really finishing their words in full sentences. :D

19 February, 2016 22:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi dsnake,

I popped back in to see if you had found my comment. Glad you did! I am contemplating reactivating my blog. The only glitch is where to find the time! I dearly miss the feedback from readers. There are so many less people reading blogs, in my experience, than facebook, but blogs are so much more interesting! Once I get going again, I will pop back in with a working link. Best to you!- Gel

29 February, 2016 22:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope two comments don't show, but better that than none. I popped back in here since I don't have a working blog up. I just need to squeeze in the time again and hope some readers, new and old, will want to drop by. It's WONDERFUL to see you! (I love that you have the same icon and I do hope that you saw my comment on a different place on the internet where you were interviewed? I cannot think of that site's name. I found it by googling you.) Regarding this poem, as I said I like the tone. Thank you for elucidating upon the reason you used the language the way you did. Great to see your one GREEN eye. :)

29 February, 2016 22:24  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

hey Gel, so wonderful to hear from you again! yeah, where to find the time, same problem with me too. i am sure blogs still have their place. facebook/instagram are more immediate. there is also so much more effort involved in a blog post than in fb.

i am looking forward to your working link, and your poems and photography. :)

don't worry about the comments, the more the merrier! i have thought of changing the icon/avatar, but i have really grown to like it. it was drawn with a graphics program, and yeah, it's one GREEN eye. :D

If you are back on-line with your blog, you can visit this community, Poets United. the folks there are pretty friendly.

all the best to you and your family!

29 February, 2016 23:36  

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