I don’t mean to hog the limelight, you too
have your woes. Work is not a man’s world
anymore. You tell me it’s better now than then.
You can choose to work when you’re free, you say.
You had this man, wouldn’t take no for an answer.
You loved him as much as you’d ever loved anyone.
He said he knew a way for you to make money . . .
Dear reader, need I go on? You’ve already sensed
where this is heading. So now we are going back
to the boiler room, the real one not the night club.
I’m growing lazy in my old age, don’t know how long
I can keep rising at dawn, arriving just after sunrise,
working all day and going homeward after it’s dark
outside. It’s dark in here all the time. I wish you too
worked here, you could keep me entertained as long
as the work stayed hard. But no, I am reading books
on the job now, something I used to do for a living
when I was young inspecting corn along the river
valley, drinking home brew with the Swedish farmers
and making a special trip into town to be seen eating
a long lunch. Sometimes my boss came out to find me
and always did, even though I walked to the middle
of the field, sat down and read, then moved on to pick
ears of corn to take back for inspection to see how ripe
and ready to pick they were and going in for a late lunch
with the boss and his colleague, another boss, at the Barn
Burgers and Shakes outside the remote city of Grandview
where my father died many years later, long before you
worked for your man but only after saying he could never
marry you, you were white and his family would never
acceept you. "But learn how to do this and we can be the next
best thing." If you wind up in jail you’ll have yourself
a subject to write about. I was night manager of a motel
during the world’s fair and the woman who worked with me
said, Come down to Lake Union and visit me in my houseboat.
She also lived on Queen Anne Hill. Your mother could see
the ships from there before your father lost his job and had
to move to the remote city where much later you were born.
I knew a girl in your town went to bed to pay for a hit of speed
and got pregnant, had an abortion before Roe, got married
to a poet who started drinking with the people in his seminars
as he glided toward a master’s he thought would get him hired
and she left him but it took weeks, months, years for him to dry
out. You had no bidet, it took you longer to get to sleep nights
you took the night’s take to his place and divided it with him
and he showed you the rest of what he knew one night at a time.
But it isn’t my business. I have taken to reading books between
half hour periods before each blaze begins to die down and here
I am happy, as happy as a man can be lucky to have you for wife.
But don’t get me wrong, I love you more than I’ve loved any lass
who loves me back and well after she’s prayed to God to take
her needs away and give her the strength to be chaste and happy
sleeping in a separate bed on another floor but giving me fellatio.
(2 October 2010)