worker’s comp

in the place where they hammer the lightning,
the big boss has been meeting with the union.
sick pay, the boys want, and vision. the flash
zaps the cornea like a rag to oily hands:
scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing up raw skin.
old-timers walk the rows with white veils
tied over empty sockets, working the machines
by touch and by smell, ozone and hot metal,
the plasticky stink of the molds, whipping
the light with breath and spit until it learns
to lie down and be still. the bellows churn
overnight on rush orders, summer storms
rescheduled for april, last-minute cloudbursts.
hungry men are wind-cheap and lined up
down the walk, so the big boss ignores
the picket line and plans a party instead,
a slip-n-slide for the kids, watermelon,
barbecue, sparklers. a twenty-minute storm
to crown the night, real blue-ribbon stuff:
curtains of rain, thunder like the howl of god,
lightning fresh from their own factory, white
and gold tongues licking down to threaten
the elm trees. the little ones screech and dive
for cover and the rabblerousers forget
their anger and the old-timers sit and suck
their teeth and blink and blink in darkness.

Maria Zoccola is a queer Southern writer with deep roots in the Mississippi Delta. She has writing degrees from Emory University and Falmouth University. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at

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