Patricia Lockwood

from Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Killed with an Apple Corer, She
Asks What Does That Make Me

For all her life she did piece work

on the orange assembly line, she tied

awful flesh knots at the ends of oranges

to separate one from the next,

        (her father was the same, her father

        squinted at blueprints of bulls, and built

        them up room by room, and then sent

        them into the fields

                                to graze on pure

                thousands instead of the grass,)

she lived in the squarest state, she was soft

as map creases are, her lover, one floor

above, worked to make things themselves:

steel driven home in steel and shoehorns

shoehorned in, he lost piece by piece

                his whole body that way;

                until she no longer wanted him

                and took a lover one floor below

who brought game after game to life—when she

told him, “The forest is as tall as a paper mill

tonight,” he took her walking there, and they

envisioned each tree as a bundle of cues, or horseheads

set on endless Ls, or a deep sleeve of letter tiles.

And when he was unlucky too, he climbed upstairs

and raised a right arm that suddenly seemed to be


        and cried, “Machine beats man,” and finally

fell at her feet, his wounds pouring red rolls of the dice;

and then using her terrible skills, she tied him off from her,

and then went to the man who made things themselves

and lay down on his line, and he said her name

like industrial noise but finally it meant nothing,

                and “What is happening?” she asked,

and he leaned down and told how the air

                        drilled a hole in her to breathe,

and he leaned down and told how the red

                                spiraled off in one neat piece,

Patricia Lockwood's Balloon Pop Outlaw Black is forthcoming from Octopus Books.

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