Bloodsuckers and a Day in the Life...

Blood suckers

Aside from my hands that
work 12 hours each day, the source
of my livelihood,
blood must be one of the most
valued part of my body.
I say this because
during the day
a large portion of it gets
sucked by the factory owner,
the bourgeoisie.
Whatever little remains gets
sucked by hordes of mosquitoes
that show up
as uninvited guests
every night
in my dim lit, narrow, cramped
dormitory, and I think to myself
perhaps they are starving,
just as much as I am.
So I let them suck for a while.
I let them suck my blood
as I do not have
much else to offer.
At least, this way,
one of us
would not sleep
hungry at night.

Xu Lizhi

A day in the life of a migrant factory worker

My feet hurt from the everyday routine of
standing in the assembly line
for hours on a stretch
so I think of laying them on my bed
in the 14 square meter room I return to
soon after my shift is over.

My body aches from sleeping in a
narrow, cramped, 14 square meter room,
packed with 5 to 6 workers, all sharing,
with no space to turn to the other side of the bed.
So I think of my next shift
when I can have some room
to stretch my body
by working over 12 hours.

My hands pain from 12 hours of factory work.
They’ve turned all rough and calloused
so I think of a nice moisturizer
something I can’t afford
though the oil and grease leaked from those heavy machines
act as an affordable moisturizer everyday
so I rub my hands with it anyway.

My mind hurts from the pressure of the
ever looming production targets
so I think of something else.
I try to distract my mind.
I think of music.
But the monotonous, deafening
sound of the factory machines
is the only music I hear nowadays.

So I think of something else.
I think of colors.
Colors in my room.
But soon I realize
how colorless, dull, unpainted
my room is, the roof of which
is covered with tar sheets,
made out of cement,
its inner walls – not even plastered,
falling apart – just as us workers’ lives.

So I think of something else.
I think of sun.
I think of light.
But I soon realize
it’s been a long while
since I saw the sun properly.
My room just as dark as my life
gets no sunlight.
Factory to dormitory
dormitory to factory.
Just like that
days fly by, nights fly by.
We eat the same meal.
Day in, day out.
We get no leave.
No breaks in between.
Not even for restroom.
A few extra minutes taken in the rest room and
we get humiliated,
run the risk of losing our jobs.

It’s become unbearable.
I miss my family.
I miss my hometown.
Sometimes I can’t help myself,
I break into tears at work
when I stand there
assembling the assigned product,
when packing items
before they are to be transported.
Sometimes I wonder if they will
travel to my hometown?
I secretly wish they do,
I think to myself,
perhaps, this way,
my shed tears may too.

Note: This poem is dedicated to the memory of a Chinese migrant factory worker at Foxconn, an exceptional poet, Xu Lizhi, who committed suicide on September 2014 by jumping out of a window of his residential dormoratory. He was 24.

Prerna Bakshi is a writer, scholar, translator and activist of Indian origin, presently based in Macao. Her work has previously been published in over three dozen journals, newspapers, and magazines. Her full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, is forthcoming in 2015. She tweets at @bprerna.