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.


Working Girl

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.