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When Olive was an embryo, she curled her thumbs
into the "o," stretched herself into an obelisk,
tall as a coconut palm, stately as a saguaro.
Legends crisscross at this crucial point:
Sweet Haven lore has Olive as princess of knobby-kneed
school girls, while King Features lists her as kitsch witch.
She used to spin on the playground until she fainted.
She used to pull herself up and scare everyone.
Olive drew her own face, then her mother’s
rose full-moon over her daughter’s rubbery china bones.
Orzo, Ooze, Oulipo–
as though the whole world were one big O!1
She rose from razor shells and the abiding anorectic
wombs of the gods of Italy and vinegar.
Olive saw the ad–f u cn rd ths u cn gt a gd jb2–
and sent her resume to a P.O. Box,
the thin lines of her qualifications
like squiggles of a Basho
or tiny flecks of light that have passed through crystal.
5. (The Origin of Popeye)
Only Olive owned ostentatious orgasms;
the puerile position of pomp belonged to Popeye.
Olive, it is said. created him when she slipped
on a slimy spinach leaf and landed on a pipe.
Ceci n’est pas une pipe,3 some said to negate the narration,
the way Olive’s body looks sideways, blending into the vertical
horizon we call the end, dead end, sweet dreams.
Olive, so many dots of color, rearranging herself like nomenclature.
1 Frank O’Hara’s favorite form of punctuation was the exclamation point.
2 If you can read this you can get a good job.
3 Sometimes Popeye smoked a pipe and sometimes he didn’t.
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Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.