Happy as...

Larry hits a bar after work. Hits
it hard, like the punchbag
at the gym he doesn’t go to anymore.
Face blotched and veiny, eyes sore
from dim interiors and neon lights,
he groans at his reflection: the sag
of his belly over a belt loosened
to its last notch and still tight,
shirt buttons straining, his suit
wearing as thin as his excuses.
The next round of redundancies,
he’ll be gone. He’s a liability:
no contacts, no customers, no clout.
He’s got nothing to be happy about.

Would Larry’s lot in life recalibrate
if a glance back in time (to foggy
Victorian streets) showed him a sandboy
labouring with barrow? Larry works eight
hours a day, considerably less than
this chap; adjusted for inflation, his take-
home pay is better; his back doesn't ache,
or his shoulders; blisters don’t scar his hands.
Manifold differences. What hasn't changed
is the ritual that ends the working day:
pub, ale. Our sandboy downs his first
pint, staves off thoughts of tomorrow,
of the hours behind the barrow,
the sand, the heat, the day-long thirst.

But Larry and the sandboy are living
the good life (all correspondence
c/o Easy Street) if the existence
of our next subject is anything
to go by. No formal introduction,
I’m afraid: he doesn’t have a name.
The farmer calls him ‘pig’. His home,
the mildewed walls of a sty.
Bred and fed and fattened just to die,
he’s bacon, sausage, breakfast for a nation.
Though appetites would wane, he thinks,
if they saw the squalor, inhaled the stink.
The end is near and while he waits for it
he wallows unhappily, a pig in shit.

Neil Fulwood (UK)

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