"Amazon Worker" by Tom Paine
by Tom Paine
(image above: artwork by A.L. Cook inspired by George Orwell’s 1984)
He was afraid. He was tired. He was very angry.
The fish were fished out. He laughed at democracy.
He laughed at capitalism. Citibank took his boat
and his wife and the Chinese his kids. Walmart
took his state and Target his town. He ran twenty
miles a night up the halogen aisles of the warehouse.
He laughed as his disembodied voice tried to sing.
He wore a metal wristband. It controlled his hand.
The algorithms kept his reach tethered to his grasp.
A gothic tattoo on his veined arm: Machine Meat.
The algorithm madly stacked kites next to condoms.
Workers wept. He called the algorithm the Overlord.
He was angrily chased by facial recognition software.
He laughed at his paycheck. He laughed at their tears.
He laughed at Trump and shootings and Fox News.
The warehouse was 100 degrees. He laughed at heat.
He was on SNAP. He pissed in two Coke bottles.
He laughed at the billionaire exploring other planets.
He was reviewed with Immediate Anytime Feedback.
He shit in a plastic bag. The billionaire shit in peace.
He didn’t drug. He had long defaulted college loans.
He laughed at his unheralded existential meanderings—
and laughed when we gave him drugs to block them.
Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, Epiphany, The Moth Magazine (Ireland), Volt, Glasgow Review of Books, Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Fence, The Common, Green Mountain Review, Galway Review (Ireland), Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, Boston Review, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.