Bronwyn Lovell’s poetry has featured in Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, Southerly, Cordite, Antipodes, Rabbit, Verity La, and Strange Horizons. She has won the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award and the Adrien Abbott Poetry Poetry Prize. She has been shortlisted for the Judith Wright, Fair Australia, Newcastle, Montreal, and Bridport Prizes.
You and I can both get jobs
and finally see what it means to be living
— “Fast Car”, Tracy Chapman
I trade time for dollars at the minimum
wage exchange. I wipe tables instead
of writing poems. I am well versed
in the cycle of reheating and eating
frozen meals in the windowless staff
room. I know my worth in hourly
increments. I have purchased property
with my body. I have a small patch
of grass the bank lets me mow. I live
within my fence, make my garden
pretty, iron my uniform to hang an
empty effigy to my hollow shape.
I am paying the bank off for a metal
box in which I cart myself across
suburbs pumping noxious gas exhaust
on my way to the shopping centre
where I serve the fried flesh of dead
animals to pigs who don’t think they
are animals. I scrape the waste from
their plates into the trash to be shipped
out to stink up some other place
where garbage piles like body bags.
I want to do the real work — I want
to write the world anew but that’s
not what companies pay me to do.
I am the overqualified unskilled.
I am the doctoral student you drive
-thru, that see-through counter chick.
Sometimes I wonder what lipstick,
wig, tit tassels and a spray tan might
do. How much could I make? What
would it strip from me and could I
break even, pay my way out? What’s
a small heart-sink for cash in hand?
I see how it happens — an overdue
power bill, medication for the cat,
funding cuts, no penalty rates, my
savings account stripped bare.
There isn’t a woman in my lineage
who hasn’t earned her keep.
Stripper me does not differ greatly
from strapped me. She’s just a girl
trying to make some money. She’s
simply more practical: writes off
fish-net stockings and pole-dancing
classes on her tax. It wouldn’t take
much — full body wax, theatre-thick
foundation, waterproof mascara
and a spine. The girls in International
House do it. Call them Asian beauties
or student slaves. Call me by my name
badge, ‘Love’, or something else entirely.