Ron Rash

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Brown Lung

Rash, Ron

Last Updated: Nov-01-1996
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


Sometimes I'd spend the whole night coughing up / what I'd been breathing all day at work. With this beginning to a 20-line poem, the author presents the plain, straightforward suffering of a laborer with lungs damaged as a result of his job in a cotton mill. The doctor he consults simply advises that he get a different job, at which the speaker scoffs: "as if / a man who had no land or education / could find himself another way to live." His foreman more humanely transfers him to an outside position loading boxcars. But the damage has been done: "I'd still wake / gasping for air at least one time a night. / When I dreamed I dreamed of bumper crops / of Carolina cotton in my chest."

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