The Tobaccogatherers 
On cold scales with bronze they weigh it-
but can they gauge its weight-
our tobacco, our troubles,
our salty sweat!

 

From the dark dim dawns of summer mornings
up to the godless time of winter evenings
greedily it drinks of our sorrow,
our sweat, our blood and our strength.
The yellow-gold makes faces pale
and brings a yellow guest into out breast.

On dew-laden mornings in the first dawn
bowed low in the fields of the place where we were born
listlessly we gather it in.
Pick leaf by leaf
string leaf by leaf
turn leaf by leaf over and press down,
line leaf by leaf gently, sadly
on the long string of beads of sweat
hope with an oath and green fury
with hard stares from cloudy eyes
at the soft leaves all yellow gold
a bitter tale of a life accursed
string on so, soundlessly but clear.
Don’t you know this ?

The day is come for the weighing-up.
There is no gauge meet, it burrows in the breast
without ceasing, without finding its level
not grief but an oath, and in the clouded eyes
unsummoned rises the tempest.

 

The scales bear golden leaves
while in the breast rage furious waves
of golden grief, of golden tobacco
of the golden sweat of our hands.

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