I came across this poem (though I don’t recall where or when) and just wanted to post it here. Ann Hutt Browning’s book of poems, Deep Landscape Turning, was published in August, 2009, by the Ibbetson Street Press.

AN ORDINARY LIFE

When she awoke in the morning

She threw back her all cotton sheet,

Cotton woven in a far off country

By a dark skinned girl chained to her large loom.

When she went into her kitchen

She ground beans to brew her coffee,

Beans grown, roasted in a far off country

Where the tall trees were cleared off the land

For the coffee bushes to be planted

And tended by boys not in school and men

Old before their time and where all the waste

From treating the beans is flushed and dumped

In the river, adding that detritus

To the human waste and chemical run

Off already there in the gray water

And where downstream others used the water,

That dark water, for cooking and bathing.

After her children boarded the school bus,

Wearing clothing made in the Philippines,

Mauritania, Taiwan, a hodge-podge

Of imports from other worlds, far off countries,

Where sweat shops flourished,

Filled with child workers,

She went shopping:

Guatemalan cantaloupes, Mexican tomatoes,

Chilean oranges, California lettuce,

Carolina rice, Michigan peaches,

Blueberries from Maine, all bought because

In her garden she grew hybrid tea roses,

Siberian iris, cross-bred daylilies in six colors,

Held down by pine bark, chipped in Oregon.

Then she roamed the market aisle marked

“Special,” and bought a basket, its colors

Imitative of Mexican folk art, made in China,

The price suggesting child or prison labor

Dyed the fronds of grass, wove the basket

And attached the label.

She ate a quick lunch of a hamburger,

The ground beef from a far off country

Where the virgin forest was burned off

So cattle could graze on tropical grass,

The bun made from Canadian wheat

And the ketchup, again those Mexican tomatoes.

She drove home to prop up her feet

On the foam cushioned sofa, turn on the TV,

Assembled in Nicaragua,

In a maquiladora by a woman

Who rose at five a.m. to walk three kilometers

To the bus, who then rode twenty-five miles

To the factory in the tax free zone,

Who worked from eight to five

With a quarter of an hour to eat

Or use the toilet,

Who got home at eight o’clock

To bathe and feed her three children,

With eighteen cents an hour in her pocket

On good days.

The woman on the sofa

Watched two soap operas

As usual on a week day,

And ate ice cream,

American ice cream.

She liked American ice cream.

She lived an ordinary life

— ANN HUTT BROWNING

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