“Engineer” by Paula Mendoza

Paula Mendoza


I took it apart.

When it was whole,
it wasn’t right.

Gaps everywhere, nothing
locked into place.

I laid out each piece
on the floor
in order of how they felt
in my hand—

their weight, roughness,
and what I imagined they did
when once they held together.


must have grinded all the rest
forward, I think,

as I set a gear down,
third in line.

I don’t know what to do
with any of them.

It is morning and still cold
when I walk outside
with what, inside my fist,

feels smoothest, heaviest—

and knock something living
out of a tree.

It made a sound,

softer than I would have
figured a small, furred body,

falling into dirt, might make.

Whole, it wasn’t right.

Apart, lined up against each other,
they were near enough good.

I left the body
to be eaten by the stray we named.

Inside lay more pieces
to find.

For each, some better use.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

[download audio]


Paula Mendoza: “I’m lousy with directions and get lost a lot. I feel peculiarly displaced, foreign and far away, anywhere I end up. Reading and writing orients me, fixes me still. I write poetry to find my way home.”

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