a work poem

my boss at the bakery touches the inside of my arm
with a hot spatula and yelps for me. i am already a grid
of injury, it’s hard to tell which burn is new. i smear lavender
oil over half the limb just to be sure. slick and shining, i am stunning
over stove top: all grease and flecks of potato and now the smell
of herbs and grapeseed. i want him to think of me every time
he fries an egg. i imagine he is the kind of man
who buys organic vegetables but smokes cigarettes when he drinks.
it’s boring to be too self-preservationist. he refills my water glass
with coffee and pretends it’s an honest mistake. the only real gift
he has given me: a small wooden-handled stainless steel blade,
foldable and very sharp. practical. i keep it tucked in my winter
jacket pocket, practice opening it one-handed while walking.
the pocket hangs in strips of cut cloth against my side. immediately
after metal hits skin, it’s a welt like the backbone of an old cat.
twelve hours, the welt has melted down. just a streak of red. two days
and it is like a smashed earthworm on the skin. what a lovely
spot of ruin. i peel apples with the small knife while he cracks
eggs into hissing butter.

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