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Jill McDonough

Jill McDonough received an MFA from Boston University. She is the author of Reaper (Alice James Books, 2017), Where You Live (Salt Publishing, 2012), and Habeus Corpus (Salt Publishing, 2008). McDonough has received three Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Public Library, and Stanford University, among others. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts–Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online. She lives in Boston.

By This Poet

2

Twelve-Hour Shifts

A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home
to real life.  Showers, eats supper, plays video games.
Twelve hours later he comes back, high-fives, takes over the
      drone

from other pilots, who watch Homeland, do dishes, hope they
      don’t
dream in all screens, bad kills, all slo-mo freeze-frame.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home.

A small room, a pilot’s chair, the mic and headphones
crowd his mind, take him somewhere else.  Another day
another dollar: hover and shift, twelve hours over strangers’
     homes.

Stop by the store, its Muzak, pick up the Cheerios,
get to the gym if you’re lucky.  Get back to your babies, play
Barbies, play blocks. Twelve hours later, come back.  Take over
     the drone.

Smell of burned coffee in the lounge, the shifting kill zone.
Last-minute abort mission, and the major who forgets your
     name.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home.

It’s done in our names, but we don’t have to know.  Our own
lives, shifts, hours, bounced off screens all day.
A drone pilot works a twelve-hour shift, then goes home;
fresh from twelve hours off, another comes in, takes over our
      drone.

Our Father

A year or two, mornings before school,
our father came into our rooms with pliers. 
My sisters and I crammed into Jordache
casings, Gloria Vanderbilts. We’d jump
into jeans, tug them up our ashy thighs, abrade
young skin with denim seams. Taut denimed butts
on polyester Holly Hobby bedspreads, until they
were painted on, until our arms ached, our fingers
hurt, until we were panting, exhausted, our smooth
foreheads beaded with sweat. Near tears as usual,
calling for help. After the first time, when he laughed
but then couldn’t grip the brass zipper, so ha ha dad
the joke’s on you, he kept pliers handy, grabbed
the pull tab, tugged it up the teeth so we
could button our own damn pants. What we think
we want. What we know. What do we know
when we ask for what we think we want? We pray
for ridiculous things, we humans. And so often are indulged.