After Graduate School

Needless to say I support the forsythia’s war
against the dull colored houses, the beagle
deciphering the infinitely complicated universe
at the bottom of a fence post. I should be gussying up
my resume, I should be dusting off my protestant work ethic,
not walking around the neighborhood loving the peonies
and the lilac bushes, not heading up Shamrock
and spotting Lucia coming down the train tracks. Lucia
who just sold her first story and whose rent is going up,
too, Lucia who says she’s moving to South America to save money,
Lucia, cute twenty-something I wish wasn’t walking down train tracks
alone. I tell her about my niece teaching in China, about the waiter
who built a tiny house in Hawaii, how he saved up, how
he had to call the house a garage to get a building permit.
Someone’s practicing the trumpet, someone’s frying bacon
and once again the wisteria across the street is trying to take over
the nation. Which could use a nice invasion, old growth trees
and sea turtles, every kind of bird marching
on Washington. If I had something in my refrigerator,
if my house didn’t look like the woman who lives there
forgot to water the plants, I’d invite Lucia home,
enjoy another hour of not thinking about not having a job,
about not having a mother to move back in with.
I could pick Lucia’s brain about our circadian rhythms,
about this space between sunrise and sunset,
ask if she’s ever managed to get inside it, the air,
the sky ethereal as all get out—so close
and no ladder in sight.

Related Poems

Quelly Looks up From the Ground

Narrator:
I know for a fact Quelly was an artist for she carried paper bags
around with little jars of paint she’d stolen.
This was in case anyone asked “Are you an artist” but no one ever did.

 

The waitress lives in a room above a garage

She places fruit on the sill for sun sweet warmth

She imagines she’s a guest in a room in a castle but she is not

Every night she visits the mortuary to see her future

Days she sells crescent rolls shaped like

                  crescent moons shaped like

                  crescent cats curled up

                  in her imaginary arm

Isn’t there some applause for her lonely life?
 

Some days she’s busy with anatomies wearing people

Some days she’s idle with their trappings

She watches the clock

And then the clock watches her

I would defend her if I could but she drinks from her own

Cup of blueberry tea. She calls from the window    Help!

I Won't Wash the Dishes Anymore

Translated from Portuguese by John Keene

I won’t wash the dishes anymore
Or dust the furniture
I'm sorry
I've begun to read
The other day I opened a book and a week later I decided
I won't carry the trash out to the trash bin
Or clean up the mess of leaves falling in the yard
I'm sorry
After reading I noticed each dish has its own aesthetic,
an aesthetic of traces, of ethics, of static
I look at my hands as they flip the books' pages
Hands much softer than they were before
I feel that I can start to be all the time
I feel. If something happens
I am not going to wash anymore. Nor bring
your rugs in for dry cleaning
My eyes grow teary
I'm sorry
Now that I've begun to read I want to understand,
why, why?
And why
things exist
I read and I read and I read
I even smiled
And left the beans to burn. . .
See, the beans always take time to cook
Let’s just say things are different now. . . .
Ah, I forgot to say
I won’t do it any more
I've resolved to have some time for myself
I've resolved to read about what's going on between us
Don't wait for me
Don't call for me
I won’t be going
From everything I've ever read, from everything I understand
It was you who went
Went too far, for too long, past the alphabet
It had to be spelled out for you
I won’t wash things to cover up the true filth
Or dust things clean and scatter the dust from here to there and from there to here
I'll disinfect my hands and avoid your moving parts
I won't touch alcohol
After so many years literate
I’ve learned to read
After so much time together
I’ve learned to make a break

My sneaker from your shoe
My drawer from your ties
My perfume from your scent
My canvas from your frame
That's how it is, I’m not washing a thing anymore
And I stare at the filth at the bottom of the glass

The moment always arrives
of shaking things up, of moving forward, of making sense of things
I do not wash dishes anymore
I read the signature on my Emancipation Proclamation in black capital letters,
size 18, double-spaced
I set myself free

I do not wash dishes anymore
I want silver platters
Deluxe kitchens
And gold jewelry
The real kind

So is the Emancipation Proclamation decreed

That's the Job

That’s the job, he said,
shrugging his shoulders
and running his hand
through his hair, like Dante,
or a spider
that knows its web,
That’s just the job,
he repeated stubbornly
whenever I complained
about working the night shift
in hundred-degree heat,
or hauling my ass
over the hump
for a foul-mouthed dispatcher
yelling at us
over a loudspeaker,
or riding the cab
of an iron dungeon
creeping over bumpy rails
to a steel mill
rising out of the smog
in Joliet or Calumet City
where we headed
to track down
a few hundred giants
in chains clanking together
on rusty wheels
for dragging home
and uncoupling
at the clearing yard
loaded with empty
freight cars
waiting to be loaded
with more freight,
because that’s the job.