My uncle was a worker
who would have preferred not to work

at the university he had a boss
who lorded over his life’s time

the time he had to be at work
was so banal a demand it went unnoticed

to have mentioned it would have
violated our country’s code

at the university he collected the seeds
he found during his time on the grounds

(blackberries are an invasive species
in the part of the country where I am from)

(when your dog falls down a ravine full of blackberries
you brave the prickers to make sure he is safe)

my uncle made sure that his boss’s house was plentiful
with the thorns those seeds would become

(to deploy violence in response to violence
is a language most workers

would prefer not to learn)



Alex Gallo-Brown is the author of Variations of Labor, a collection of poems and stories forthcoming from Chin Music Press in 2019. His essays and non-fiction have appeared previously in publications that include Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Salon.com, and The Brooklyn Rail. His poems can be found in Pacifica Literary Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Rise Up Review, and Muse/A Journal. He lives in Seattle with his wife and daughter, where he works as a union organizer.