By Paul Martínez Pompa Paul Martinez Pompa
That Lucia broke the machine twice in one week was evidence enough. He also offered this—she’s no longer automatic, her stitches are crooked and once another seamstress found Lucia’s “lost” sewing patterns in the trash. The security guard half listened as Lucia gathered her things. Then the manager turned directly to her—what is it with you? We give you work, put money in your pocket. She put on her best disappointed face as they escorted her past rows of itchy throats, bowed heads, the refrain of needle through fabric.

Every day Elena counts pig. A pageant of molded plastic rolling down the conveyor belt. The task: grab Miss Piggy, pull gown over snout, fasten two tiny buttons, grab another. With each doll Elena’s hands grow stiffer. Her feet grow heavy as the concrete below. Dolls spit at her, or maybe this is imagined, but the ache in her legs might be real. The supervisor brushes against her back when he patrols the floor. After standing for hours, the room begins to blur. Her mouth opens like an empty wallet as naked dolls march on.
What will settle in, what will rise from the lungs of girls who still burn weeks after detox treatment at a local clinic. Speak of headaches, blurred vision, diarrhea. How they suck air thick with sulfuric acid. Acetone working past unfiltered exhaust systems and through their livers. Most return to work despite doctors’ orders. Back inside, the tin roof and their steady perspiration remind them they’re still alive—together one breathing, burning machine.
Like Celia’s pockets, there’s nothing but lint here. Lint & dead machines. The sound of layoffs & profit margins. Yesterday this department droned an unsynchronized rhythm of coughing girls tethered to well-lubed motors. Row after row of pre-asthmatic lungs. Black hair buried under perpetual white. The decision was made across the border, he tells them. Nothing I can do about it. Sometimes Celia would imagine the whole place caught inside a tiny globe. Something she could pick up. Shake.

A perpetual conveyor, he patrols her mouth. The sound of unfiltered white. Breathing margins. The task: grab Elena’s hands. Pull. Fasten. He also offered crooked patterns. Put money in her hair. That Lucia broke. Was evidence enough? Molded vision as a refrain. An empty wallet will rise. Speak. How they exhaust systems. Despite the blurred other, the ache might be real. Something she could pick up. Across the border, nothing I can imagine.

Paul Martinez Pompa, "MyKillAdoreHer" from My Kill Adore Him. Copyright © 2009 by Paul Martinez Pompa. Reprinted by permission of Paul Martinez Pompa.

Source: My Kill Adore Her (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009)

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Poet Paul Martínez Pompa

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity, Gender & Sexuality, Class, Cities & Urban Life

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 Paul  Martínez Pompa


Born and raised in suburban Chicago, Paul Martínez Pompa earned his BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and his MFA in Creative Writing at Indiana University, where he also served as poetry editor for the Indiana Review.
Martínez Pompa’s first book of poetry is entitled My Kill Adore Him (2009). According to the University of Notre Dame Press, the title is “a homophonic translation of the Spanish . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity, Gender & Sexuality, Class, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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