Assam Tea Pickers by Vicky Hampton

There are no flames –

the man who swallows fire

chokes on a mist –


one arm pumps up down

up down, the other waves

left right, left right


one bellowing

one spraying –

it burns just the same.


He has no mask

and protective clothing

is not provided.


The bare midriff girl

sari on her bones

like rag on wire


will quietly ask

why can’t he feel his face

his hands, hungry?


In leaking homes

the new-born starve

Right up to the time to push


she’ll pick, he’ll spray


among pots


on a mud floor

she’ll birth and say,

oh, another grief.


I am a Writing for Wellbeing Facilitator and have been writing poetry seriously for about 4 years. I live in Gloucestershire, in the Forest of Dean where I run a peer-learning poetry group called Poets In Progress, or PIPs.  My work has won prizes in the Chipping Sodbury and Salopian poetry competitions and has been anthologised and published online and in small publications. I read at Monmouth Literary Festival last year, and Cheltenham Poetry Festival  and Coleford Festival of Words this year. I am currently working on a small collection for publication.

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