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Poem by Dr Dan Etherington

The silent sickly dawn 
Signalled the return of stinking sweat
And rust-red dust of coir husk.
Soon, too soon, cockerel calls
And the clink and clank of cattle bells
Are drowned by the all-pervading,
Slow, persisting, pounding, mind-numbing 
‘Thump’, ’thump’ of diesel turning
Belts of power
And wheels of life.

Wheels turning, turning,
Sharp teeth tearing, tearing
Husk upon husk,
Combing, combing
Fibre upon fibre,
Bristle upon bristle,
Dust to dust.
Noisy, clanking, banging
Wheels of life.
Hands gripping, gripping …
Man sweats his way to his pay
of a rupee a day.

Half an orbit away
Where night still holds her sway,
Silent smooth wheels turn
With the roll of dice
Or the click of chips for a higher price.
Croupiers call
As fortunes rise and fall.
Hearts pound in anticipation
As, with hypnotic fascination,
Wheels are turning, turning,
Wheels slowing, slowing,
Hope upon hope,
Fear upon fear,
Smoke upon smoke,
Ashes to ashes.

Wheel of fortune
Or wheel of death?
Minds grabbing, grabbing,
Stomachs sinking, sinking,
Hope slipping, slipping.
Man sweats his fortune away 
before the dawn of another day.

27 December 1978

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