Rubber Soul

what does a rubber worker exhale

if it’s the same as what she inhales

if she complains to management

that the label on the primer

is a warning with a skull and crossbones

and there’s no ventilation in the building

to ingest the souls of the antioxidants

the activators and bonding agents

if she asks her boss for a little fan

to suck in some soul, a little window

to open, to let out the fillers, solvents

and retarders she smells all the way

to the parking lot, the little bit of soul

that gets in the car and drives home

with her, that’s in her bloodstream and hair

that sleeps on her pillow

when she closes her eyes but can’t sleep

when she opens her mouth to breathe

Paola Corso is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of a book of poems Death by Renaissance set in her native Pittsburgh river town where her Italian immigrant grandfather and father worked in the steel mill. Her story collection Giovanna’s 86 Circles, also set in Pittsburgh, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press. Email her at