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Exhaustion

if she could use
her hands to fasten
a button twist a knob
scribble a letter
to tell me she dreams
about tailpipes
thirteen parts assembled
again and over
like a broken dance
of two palms
stroking rubbery backs
fingers bowing
to partners swollen
with gnarled collapse
snapping delicate cylinder
joints in place
for the socket and bend of it
as she dismantles her own
one occupation at a time
even before they tell her
with owning fists
to speed the quota
because flesh is thick
in a town that has no fire
just cold furnaces
and breadsinners
with lottery eyes or
bingo on their breath
so where can she go
if the work of her hands
is meant for reaching
the grasp of all things falling


Paola Corso is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of a book of poems Death by Renaissance (2004) 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 paola_corso@hotmail.com.


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