Friday, May 14, 2010

Poetry Chauffeur and Other Facets of the Modern Work Life

I got my contributor copy of Poetry East yesterday. I will always have a soft spot for this journal. I met the editor (and poet) Richard Jones almost a decade ago when he came to do several events with the Florida Center for the Book.

My friend, Nancy Berg, worked there, and she didn't have a car. She made me an irresistible deal: I could come to all the events for free if I'd drive her and Richard Jones to all the events.

At the time, I was a mostly-broke adjunct. How could I refuse?

It was great to attend all the events, to see Richard Jones in a variety of settings: giving a reading to an audience of mostly poets, attending a Creative Writing class at several different community colleges, leading a writing workshop at the public library.

And in between, we all had fabulous conversations in the car, my brand new Toyota Echo. Richard Jones was very gracious about being chauffeured in a subcompact, economy car.

Poet chauffeur: now that's an interesting job!

My poem that was just published in Poetry East is about the modern work life in an office, a kind of drudgery that is similar, yet different, to that experienced by housewives of several generations ago. The title is a deliberate nod to Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing."

I Stand Here Shredding Documents

I stand here shredding documents.
I think of my mother and her basket
of ironing, the baskets of clothes,
both clean and dirty, the constants
of laundry and housekeeping.

I yearned for a different set of baskets,
an inbox and an outbox,
clothes that need professional attention
from dry cleaners and a house
so uninhabited
that it didn't get dirty.

Now I have become my father,
a woman of file cabinets
and endless meetings of infinite boredom.
I stand at the shredder,
my daily friend, and think of work
that is never finished.

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