KAROSHI (Death by Overwork)

Photo Credit: Emmanuelle Firman
Jonathan Moya reads KAROSHI
The boxes pile high above his head,
beyond his ability to count them,
beyond his ability to move them.
He will work them.
More twelve hour days
for not enough pay.
No days off until KAROSHI-
death by overwork.

He asked his family to bury him,
in his small living room ,
in front of the flicking embers
of the big flat screen
he never quite paid off.

Instead they cremated him
per the Buddhist way,
burned him until only
the company logo was left.
They wanted to celebrate
his total dedication
to the corporate way,
the money, time and work,
all that rich work which
put them in silk robes
and sitting on a fine
throne of nice things,
not slurping ramen
at the counter of
a cheap noodle place.

Then the money ran out
and mother worked,
pressed and sewed
for the old tailor shop.
Father drove a cab
for twelve hours,
never competing
evenly with the Ubers.

Like everything
the tailor closed,
the car broke down,
the robes were pawned,
their throne of things
dwindled away—

until the factory,
the factory floor
consumed them
in piles of concrete
and plastic,
until KAROSHI.


Inspired by Emmanuelle Firman’s photos of exhausted Asian workers.

Overworked & Exhausted